Illinois senator proposes national concussion awareness legislation

Lawmakers recently have been busy introducing a number of sports safety-related bills.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has proposed national legislation to cover concussion safety guidelines throughout the country, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Durbin's bill -- The Protecting Student Athletes from Concussions Act -- would require states to develop concussion safety guidelines for public schools, including posting educational information on school campuses and websites about concussion symptoms, risks and recommended responses. The bill also includes a "when in doubt, sit it out" policy, requiring students with suspected concussions to end participation in the athletic event for the day.

Durbin said Illinois is already a leader in the type of pro-active approach he's pushing, but he said a national standard is needed to protect the well-being of student athletes across America.

States would have five years after the bill is enacted to issue guidelines to schools, or face the possibility of losing federal funding.

The Associated Press reported that legislation has been introduced in the House by Pennsylvania and Ohio lawmakers to trigger reform in the NCAA, guaranteeing four-year scholarships for athletes who play collision sports.

Rep. Charlie Dent (Pa.-R) and Rep. Joyce Beatty (Ohio-D) say the National Collegiate Athletics Accountability Act will help improve health and education of student-athletes and require more transparency from the NCAA.

The legislation would require athletes to have annual baseline concussion testing and ensure that an athlete in good academic standing would not be in danger of losing an athletic scholarship because of injury or performance.

Most NCAA member schools already perform baseline tests to athletes. Multiyear scholarships are allowed under NCAA rules, and according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, about two-thirds of the 56 most powerful Division I public universities now offer them.

The legislation also would require members and athletes accused of breaking NCAA rules be given a formal hearing.

Universities that did not comply with these rules would have federal Title IV funds cut off.

And the Los Angeles Times reported that California will vote this week to limit workman's comp rewards for pro athletes.

The bill, AB 1309, is expected to appear for a Senate vote in Sacramento on Tuesday; it already passed the state Assembly by a 61 to 4 vote. The bill would permanently bar athletes who never played for California teams from filing claims for cumulative injuries.

In-state athletes also would be excluded if they were on a California team for fewer than two seasons or if they spent seven or more seasons on non-California teams. The bill applies to football, baseball, basketball, ice hockey and soccer, and would relieve the NFL, in particular, of significant long-term exposure for the care of ailing former employees.

Over the last six years, more than 70% of claims, by athletes from all major pro sports leagues, came from players who would have been prevented from filing by such legislation.

-- Bill Bradley, contributing editor