Virginia House Panel Backs Youth Sports Concussions Bill

Youth sports programs that use public school property would have to adopt procedures for identifying and handling concussions if legislation endorsed Monday by a House of Delegates committee becomes law.

The Education Committee voted 16-5 to send Sen. Ralph Northam's bill to the House floor. The Senate unanimously passed the measure, but it ran into opposition from a handful of delegates who said they are reluctant to impose the state's will on private organizations using public school facilities.

"Once you start down that slippery slope, there are all kinds of things we're going to tell them to do," said Del. R. Steven Landes (R-Augusta).

Public schools already are required to have concussion policies, and supporters of Northam's bill said it's not too much to require the same of non-interscholastic sports programs using those schools' playing fields and gymnasiums. They said if an organization doesn't have a concussions policy, school officials can simply hand over their own policy and tell the group to follow it.

"If they don't have a policy, a pamphlet is given to them," said Del. Joseph Morrissey (D-Henrico). "It's as simple as that."

Northam (D-Norfolk) is a pediatric neurologist. He said sports-related concussions are a big problem that needs to be addressed.

Del. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) agreed. She reminded the committee about the 2012 suicide of former NFL star Ray Easterling, who had a degenerative brain disease associated with repeated concussions

"If people don't pay attention to what can happen with head injuries, people die," McClellan said.

"We need to recognize there are certain things it's good for government to educate people about, and that's all we are doing," she said.

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