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Legislation proposed to protect young athletes from concussions

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Concussion reduction conference

Dylan Brown Independent Record - State Sen. Anders Blewett, D-Great Falls, speaks Friday afternoon at the Red Lion Colonial Hotel as a proponent of a new law requiring better awareness of sports-related concussions among school-age athletes.

A group is hoping to get a law passed protecting young athletes from brain injuries.

Sen. Anders Blewett, D-Great Falls, along with members of the Brain Injury Alliance of Montana announced Friday afternoon their participation to promote a Montana concussion law requiring better awareness of sports-related concussions among school-age athletes, parents, coaches and school officials to prevent traumatic brain injury from multiple concussions.

The main point of the law, if enacted, would require a medical professional to provide medical clearance for an athlete return to play. It would also require education to prevent initial concussions and repeat concussions.

“We need to make it happen,” said Kristen Morgan with the Montana Brain Injury Alliance.

Although sports injuries contribute to fatalities infrequently, according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, the leading cause of death from sports-related injuries is traumatic brain injury. Sports and recreational activities contribute to about 21 percent of all traumatic brain injuries among American children and adolescents. In 2009, the top three sports or recreational activities with the highest number of head injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms was cycling, 85,389; football, 46,948; and baseball/softball, 38,394. These sports are also the top sports-related head injury categories among children 14 and younger.

Concussions account for nearly 15 percent of all sport-related injuries in high school athletes, according to researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston.

Blewett didn’t experience a concussion first-hand, but was on the same team as many players who did.

Blewett, a former high school place-kicker, said he watched his brother sustain seven concussions in school. He said what is proposed in the bill is an easy and effective way to provide education and prevention. He said Montana is one of the few states that don’t have such a statute specifically directed to concussions with respect to athletes.

“In my opinion, it’s an embarrassment,” he said.

Morgan said there is no fiscal note on the nonpartisan bill.

The bill is named Dylan Steigers Protection of Youth Athletes Act, named after a young Montana athlete who sustained consecutive concussions and ultimately died.

“We need everyone to let the community know this is something Montana wants and it is something Montana needs,” Blewett said. “You are messengers of that.”


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