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Youth Sports Concussion Safety Laws: New York

On September 17, 2011, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the state's Concussion Management and Awareness Act, adding the Empire State to the growing list that have enacted strong youth sports concussion safety laws since May 2009.  The law, which goes into effect on July 1, 2012, is more specific and comprehensive than other such laws in a number of respects.

Key provisions

  • Education:
    • Coaches, physical education teachers, nurses, and athletic trainers must complete a concussion training course every other year, which course shall include training on:
    • A concussion information pamphlet must be provided to every student-athletes, their parents, PE teacher, coach, and members of the concussion management team (see below) and every student-athlete who has suffered mTBI, and posted on the Internet websites of the State Education Department and Department of Public Health,
    • Condition for participation: Students will not be allowed to participate in interscholastic sports unless and until they and their parent or guardian has signed and returned a statement acknowledging that they have received, read and understand the pamphlet, which each school district must maintain on file as part of the student's permanent health record.
  • Establishment of concussion management team:  Each school district and non-public school must establish a concussion management team with primary responsibility for implementing the rules and regulations regarding concussion training and the contents of the concussion pamphlet, which shall be comprised of:
    • the athletic director (if any);
    • a school nurse;
    • the school doctor;
    • a coach
    • an athletic trainer; and
    • such other appropriate personnel as designated by the school district.
  • Immediate removal from play where concussion suspected.  The rules and regulations promulgated by the concussion management team must require immediate removal from athletic activities of any student-athlete believed to have sustained mTBI, the reporting of such injury to the Department of Health, and an evaluation of such student pursuant to specific guidelines.  If there is any doubt as to whether the student has sustained a concussion, it shall be presumed that she has until proven otherwise [the "when in doubt, sit them out" approach experts have long advocated].
  • Symptom free for 24 hours/written medical clearance required before return to play.  Athletes must be symptom-free for not less than 24 hours, have been evaluated by and received written and signed medical clearance from a physician trained in the evaluation and treatment of mTBI, with the authorization kept on file as part of the student's permanent health record.
  • Academic accomodations. The law mandates that the concussion management team enact rules and regulations providing guidelines for limitations and restrictions on school attendance and activities, consistent with the directives of the student's treating physician.
  • Liability:  The law provides that:
    • no school district, nonpublic school or board of cooperative educational services shall be liable for any personal injury or death of a person due to action or inaction of any other person employed by such district, school or board;
    • no school district, nonpublic school or board of cooperative educational services shall be liable for any personal injury or death of a person due to action or inaction of any other person employed by, volunteering with or under contract with a not-for-profit youth sports program (one or more sports teams in a league organized by or affiliated with a county or recreation department) if:
      • the action or inaction takes place on school district property during the not-for-profit youth sports program;
      • the not-for-profit youth sports program provides proof to the school district, nonpublic school or board of cooperative education prior to using their facilities of:
        • accident and liability insurance coverage from an insurer authorized to do business in New York with at least $50,000 in coverage for bodily injury or death for a single person and not less than $100,000 for two or more persons injured in a single incident; and
        • compliance with the district's, school's or board's policy and guidelines for the treatment and management of mTBI and other head injuries.

First-in-the-nation

The New York concussion safety law is more comprehensive and specific than any other in the country in requiring that:

  • a parent's acknowledgment of having received, read, and understood the concussion pamphlet be included in their child's permanent health record;
  • the written authorization of the health care provider that a student-athlete be allowed to return to play be included in the child's permanent health record; 
  • guidelines be promulgated by the concussion management team on restrictions on school attendance and activities [Texas is the only other state to require the establishment of concussion management teams];
  • a "when in doubt, sit them out" approach be taken when there is any question as to whether an athlete has suffered a concussion or mTBI.
  • insulating school boards from liability for bodily injury or death of athletes using school facilities during the course of events run by not-for-profit youth sports programs only where the program has provided proof of insurance and compliance with the district's concussion rules and regulation.  

Posted November 14, 2011

 

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