Heyl Royster

The Youth Sports Concussion Safety Act: Two Policies Every School Must Have for Student Athletes

September 13, 2016

By: Jim Manning, jmanning@heylroyster.com

The Youth Sports Concussion Safety Act was recently enacted in Illinois to establish concussion protocols and promote the safety of student-athletes on and off the field. Although initially passed by the Illinois state legislature in 2015 (Public Act 099-0245), implementation of the Act was deferred and took effect at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year.

The Concussion Oversight Team

The Act applies to any interscholastic athletic activity sponsored or sanctioned by a school, the IESA, or the IHSA. All schools, whether public or private, participating in interscholastic athletic activities are required to appoint a Concussion Oversight Team. The Team must include, if practicable, at least one physician, and an athletic trainer and/or nurse (if one is employed by the school) to oversee the concussion protocol policies. The Team must appoint a school representative to carry out the concussion protocol policies.

Team members, coaches, and game officials must attend training courses and continuing education approved by the IHSA. The courses are designed to assist in concussion prevention, the recognition of concussion-related symptoms, plans to address and treat an acute injury, restriction of the student-athlete’s further participation until cleared by medical personnel, and accommodations to be made in the interim pending clearance to safely return to participation.

Return-to-Play Protocol

Schools must implement both a Return-to-Play Protocol and a Return-to-Learn Protocol. The Return-to-Play protocol requires that the student-athlete be removed from participation if a coach, trainer, official, parent or guardian, or the student-athlete believes that the student-athlete may have sustained a concussion. The student-athlete must be evaluated, using established medical protocols, by a treating physician or athletic trainer working under the supervision of a physician. The student-athlete cannot return to play until the treating physician or trainer has determined that it is safe for the student-athlete to return to play and the student-athlete and parent or guardian acknowledged completion of the concussion protocols and consent to returning to play.

Return-to-Learn Protocol

Just as important is the Return-to-Learn Protocol and accommodations required for a successful return to the classroom. School administration, health care providers, the student-athlete, and the student-athlete’s parent/guardian should work together and discuss any accommodations that the student-athlete may need due to persistent symptoms of headaches, vision problems, confusion, difficulty concentrating, noise, and light considerations. Necessary accommodations could potentially include periodic rest breaks during the school day, fewer hours in the classroom if necessary, a designated study area with proper lighting, reduction in time spent on the computer, additional time to take tests or complete assignments, or help with school work.

The district superintendent or the appropriate administrative officer at a charter or private school must review and approve the protocols the school adopts. Action plans must be distributed to all appropriate personnel, posted conspicuously at all venues, and reviewed annually by athletic trainers, first responders, coaches, school nurses, athletic directors, and all volunteers associated with the interscholastic athletic activities.

For questions related to your school’s Return-to-Play or Return-to-Learn Protocols or any other questions about The Youth Sports Concussion Safety Act, please contact Jim Manning or any attorney in Heyl Royster’s Education Practice.

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