Monday, April 2, 2012

Kentucky: Taking concussion legislation to a new level

Over the last 2-3 years, the majority of states and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation to inform student athletes and parents about the nature and risk of concussions, and keep student athletes suspected of having sustained a concussion from returning to play until they've been given the all-clear from an appropriate medical professional. Some states have gone a step further, requiring coaches and other appropriate staff to receive training on identifying concussions.

However, legislation recently sent to the governor's desk in Kentucky is the first I've seen that addresses the fact that coaches and medical staff need to have a plan to act swiftly if the condition of a student who suffers a concussion begins to rapidly deteriorate--a particularly important policy component in rural areas, where the closest hospital or clinic may be a long, life-threatening drive away. Specifically, the legislation (again, pending governor's action as of this writing) directs the state board or department of education to adopt rules requiring each school with an interscholastic athletic program "to develop a venue-specific emergency action plan to deal with serious injuries and acute medical conditions in which" the patient's condition "may deteriorate rapidly. Each such plan must, among other components, "Include a delineation of role, methods of communication, available emergency equipment, and access to and plan for emergency transportation", be "posted conspicuously at all venues, and reviewed and rehearsed annually by all licensed athletic trainers, first responders, coaches, school nurses, athletic directors, and volunteers for interscholastic athletics."

To be clear, the safety plan doesn't single out concussion victims--it applies to any and all "serious injuries and acute medical conditions" for student athletes "in which the condition of the patient may deteriorate rapidly." The legislation has the potential not only to save lives, but reduce the potential severity of an injury--concussion or otherwise--if an injured student might have to travel a long distance to a hospital or clinic.

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