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New Jersey Considers Legislation on Sports Injuries

It was a bad week for sports injuries in New Jersey. On October 16, Eric LeGrand, a defensive tackle for the Rutgers University football team, was paralyzed from the neck down after an on-field collision. He remains in intensive care at Hackensack University Medical Center. The next day on the same field at New Meadowlands Stadium, Zack Follett of the Detroit Lions was taken from the field on a stretcher after being knocked unconscious during the game between the New York Giants and the Detroit Lions.

The following Monday, the New Jersey Senate approved a bill aimed at improving awareness, prevention, and treatment of sports-related concussions and brain injuries for the Garden State's student athletes. The proposed legislation requires the state's commissioner of education and the commissioner of health and senior services to create a program addressing these concerns.

The initial thrust of the program will be to educate parents and student athletes about the prevention, symptoms, and dangers of sports-related brain injuries. This will be accomplished by a brain injury fact sheet that will be provided yearly to parents, students, coaches, and athletic trainers. Also included in the fact sheet will be recommended time periods to keep students who have experienced a brain injury out of further athletic competition. Schools will also be required to formulate their own written policies and procedures about how to prevent and treat these injuries when a student is suspected of having a concussion or other brain injury.

The proposed law will mandate that any student who sustains or is suspected of sustaining a brain injury be immediately removed from competition or practice and not allowed to return until medical clearance is obtained. The student must be cleared by a doctor trained in the evaluation and management of concussions who must state, in writing, that the athlete is cleared to resume physical activity.

The cumulative effect of repeated concussions obtained during sporting events is receiving increased attention from medical experts and the media. Longer recuperative periods have been suggested for athletes who have sustained second and third concussions in athletic competition. Parents of student athletes who suffer concussions or another brain-related injury should seek the advice of trained medical personnel before their son or daughter resumes athletic activities.