NFL Commish Lobbies Governors for Law to Protect Student Athletes

Roger Goodell has made it clear that the prevention of concussions is a serious priority in the NFL and for developing athletes. In 2007, his first year as NFL commissioner, he convened a "concussion summit" to discuss the long-term effects of concussions and to analyze possible rule changes to prevent serious brain damage. In 2009, he sent a memo to all NFL teams that expanded the criteria involved in preventing a player from returning to a game after a concussion.

Most recently, in a letter sent to 44 governors, he encouraged support for legislation that would protect young athletes by mandating aggressive management of concussions. Goodell pointed out that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each year, as many as 3.8 million concussions occur among young athletes.

Washington State's legislature has already taken action by enacting the Lystedt Law, which is aimed at managing concussions among young athletes. The Lystedt Law is named after young athlete Zackery Lystedt, who fell into a coma after suffering an impact in a football game. The law includes three provisions. First, it mandates that those involved with youth sports, including coaches, parents and the athletes themselves, must be educated about the dangers of concussions. Second, coaches and managers are forbidden from allowing a young athlete with concussion-like symptoms to return to a game or practice. Third, a licensed health care provider must sign off on the young athlete's return.

Connecticut is one of a handful of states that has followed Washington's lead to enact a similar law. "An Act Concerning Student Athletes and Concussions" includes similar provisions to the Lystedt Law. Interscholastic and intramural coaches are required to be trained to recognize a concussion and must remove an athlete who is suspected of having suffered one. Additionally, a qualified medical professional must then provide written clearance before the athlete can return to activity. The law will take effect on July 1.

The Connecticut Concussion Task Force is a group of health care professionals who volunteer to increase the awareness of the signs and symptoms of concussions and how to treat them. With the passing of the Connecticut legislation, the task force will take on the mission of better informing citizens about concussions. Additionally, it will develop treatment protocols and education materials, assist organizations in dispersing this information, and put together a symposium to further increase awareness, understanding and action.