Virginia's youth sports concussion safety law was signed by Governor Bob McDonnell on April 11, 2010 and became effective July 1, 2011. The Virginia law provides for:
- Concussion education. The state Board of Education must provide local school divisions policies to inform and educate coaches, student-athletes, and their parents or guardians on the nature and risk of concussions, criteria for removal from and return to play, and risks of not reporting the injury and continuing to play;
- Concussion guideline development. Local school divisions must develop policies and procedures regarding the identification and handling of suspected concussions in student-athletes which shall require:
- as a prerequisite for participation in any extracurricular physical activity, each student-athlete and the student-athlete's parent or guardian to review on an annual basis information on concussion provided by the local school division describing the short- and long-term health effects of concussions, and sign a statement acknowledging receipt of such information;
- that a student-athlete suspected by the coach, athletic trainer, or team physician of having sustained a concussion or brain injury in a practice or game be removed from the activity immediately; and
- that a student-athlete who has been removed from play, evaluated and suspected to have a concussion or brain injury shall not be allowed to return to play that same day, nor (i) until evaluated by an appropriate licensed health care provider as determined by the Board of Education and (ii) has been provided written clearance to return to play from such licensed health care provider.
- Concussion guidelines for use of school property by other youth sports organizations. Local school divisions to provide guidelines to organizations sponsoring athletic activity for student-athletes on school property, but they shall not be required to enforce compliance with such policies.
The law, which received unanimous support in the Virginia legislature, was introduced by State Senator Ralph Northam, a pediatric neurologist, who had treated many high schoolathletes with concussions. "The more we know about concussions, the more we know that it is not safe if you return to play before the initial concussion is healed," Northam said during a February 2010 pressconference in support of his proposal.
Northam told the WashingtonPost said he regularly sees high school students who have suffered concussions and has to persuade them not to return immediately to action.
"The common scenario is that they come to my office on aMonday or Tuesday after they've sustained their concussion in Friday's game," he said. "They're trying to get cleared to play on the next Friday. I tell them, 'You have many more games to play, but you only have one brain.' "
Northam told The Post that he hopes a law will prevent coaches, parents and students from putting players backon the field before it is medically safe.
"There can be tremendous pressure to return to play," Northam said. "Sometimes it comes from fans or parents or coaches. . . . This will protect our student athletes, and it will protect coaches and school administrators."
Posted March 13, 2011; revised January 2, 2012