Concussion bill step in right direction

(Bedford) Times-Mail

Amid the missteps that have too often marked this session of the Indiana General Assembly, lawmakers are taking firm action to protect young athletes who might have sustained concussions.

Those steps are headed in the right direction.

Under current law, high school athletes who are suspected of suffering a concussion are required to sit out of practice or games until they are cleared by a health care provider. It also requires high school football coaches to go through training sessions about concussions, how to spot them and how to deal with them.

As we reported in August, local sports leaders approach the issue with the seriousness it deserves.

Bedford North Lawrence head trainer Nick Laydon conducts a baseline test with each freshman athlete in each sport in each preseason. Baseline tests are used to assess an athlete’s balance and brain function.

Later, if the athlete displays concussion symptoms, he or she will be tested again and must score well enough within guidelines before being allowed to play again.

According to a report by, Senate Bill 403, authored by state Sen. Timothy Lanane, D-Anderson, would extend the law to cover athletes in Grades 5 through 8. It also would extend sport-specific concussion training requirements to the coaches of a “number of sports in addition to football, including cheerleading,” Lanane said.

“Head injuries at a young age have far-reaching complications from which we must protect all our athletes,” Lanane said in a news release, because during fifth- and sixth-grade children are at a crucial developmental stage.

Not everyone thinks the change is necessary. Bobby Cox, commissioner of the Indiana High School Athletic Association, said in a committee meeting the IHSAA already requires that coaches take a free, generalized concussion course. The bill’s sport-specific requirement is “unnecessary and cumbersome,” he said. And he stood by the IHSAA’s current education program and said that it already has served millions of coaches nationwide.

We agree the IHSAA has made great strides, and we salute sports leaders, like those at Bedford North Lawrence, who take proper care of our young athletes.

But this can be a deadly serious issue.

According to Seabolt’s report, Michael Duerson, brother of former NFL star and two-time Super Bowl champion Dave Duerson, testified for the bill in committee at the Indiana Statehouse. Dave Duerson killed himself in 2011 and left a note asking that his brain be studied. Researchers found he had chronic traumatic encephalopathy because of the concussions he suffered during his career.

Michael Duerson also suffered a concussion during his time as an Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis basketball player. It paralyzed half his body for six months.

According to Seabolt’s report, Michael Duerson said that the hardships continued throughout his life as an engineer, and now he is unable to be in the workforce because of the effects of the concussion.

That does not mean he has been idle. He has created the Dave Duerson Athletic Safety Fund, a program that aims to support and benefit student athletes in all sports. Duerson said he supports SB 403 and its motive to further help children dealing with concussions.

With the range of concussion effects still unknown, we believe Lanane’s move is a step in the right direction.

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