NJ Governor Christie signs a concussion safety bill

NFL commissioner, owners of N.Y. Giants and N.Y. Jets, DHSS commissioner, former NFL players, legislators, student-athletes, and head trauma awareness community join Governor Christie

Trenton, N.J. -- Governor Chris Christie today signed A-2743, legislation to protect and prevent concussions in student-athletes across New Jersey's interscholastic youth sports programs. The bill adopts a multi-faceted approach, requiring the Department of Education (DOE) to develop an interscholastic athletic head injury safety training program to be completed by school physicians, coaches and athletic trainers of public and nonpublic school interscholastic sports programs.

"We've all seen the tragic results that can occur from sports-related concussions in both student and professional athletes. It's our obligation and responsibility to put the health and safety of our children first, and use the best research and evidence to protect them in the most effective way possible," said Gov. Christie. "I'm proud to sign this forward-looking and comprehensive safety measure into law to ensure that the health and well-being of our young athletes comes first with increased education, awareness and prevention."

The program that will be developed by the Department of Education will include the recognition of symptoms of head and neck injuries, and will address the appropriate amount of time a student-athlete must wait before returning to sports competition or practice after sustaining an injury. In addition, it will help ensure that school physicians, coaches and athletic trainers are properly trained to be able to identify a concussion as well as utilize the proper response during interscholastic sporting events. Currently, there is no uniform method of handling suspected concussions in interscholastic sports.

Furthermore, each school district, with the assistance of DOE, will be required to develop a written policy concerning the prevention and treatment of sports-related concussions and other head injuries among student-athletes. A student-athlete who sustains, or is suspected of having sustained, a concussion or head injury, will be removed immediately from the sporting event and will not be permitted to participate in further sports activity until he is evaluated and cleared by a physician or other properly licensed and trained healthcare provider.

Licensed athletic directors will now be required to complete certain continuing education requirements, and these credits must include instruction on topics relating to concussions and head injuries. This will ensure that licensed athletic trainers are adequately trained in the area of concussions and head injury. Currently, licensed athletic trainers have no continuing education requirements.

Gov..Christie was joined at New Meadowlands Stadium by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Health and Senior Services Commissioner Poonam Alaigh, New York Giants President and CEO John Mara, New York Jets Chairman and CEO Woody Johnson, head trauma awareness advocates, legislative bill sponsors, New Jersey student-athletes from the Randolph Bulldogs football team, and former NFL players including: New York Giants defensive end and current executive director and president of NFL Alumni George Martin; running back Chuck Mercein (Giants, Packers, Jets); New York Giants center Bart Oates; guard Dave Szott (Chiefs, Redskins, Jets); defensive back Troy Vincent (Dolphins, Eagles, Bills, Redskins) and New York Giants running back Charles Way.

"We appreciate Governor Christie's meaningful and proactive stand on protecting our young athletes by signing this comprehensive concussion safety legislation today," said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. "By improving education, training and treatment, we can increase concussion awareness and work to prevent these injuries among our youngest athletes, not only in football, but in all sports."

In May, Goodell wrote to 44 governors encouraging action be taken similar to Washington State's Lystedt's Law, to protect young athletes from concussions. Zackery Lystedt was a young Washington athlete who in 2006 returned to a middle school football game after suffering a concussion and subsequently suffered a brain injury.

Concussions are caused by a blow or motion to the head or body that disrupts the normal functioning of the brain and can cause significant and sustained neuropsychological impairments. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3.8 million sports and recreation-related concussions occur every year.

Legislative sponsors in the Senate are Senators Codey (D-Essex) and Vitale (D-Middlesex). Assembly sponsors include Assemblymembers Diegnan (D-Middlesex), Coughlin (D-Middlesex), Giblin (D-Essex, Passaic), Jasey (D-Essex), Ramos (D-Hudson), and Vandervalk (R-Bergen).

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