Framing the Issues: Concussions and Sports Law

Concussions are a pervasive topic in the area of sports today and rightly so.  Increased awareness concerning the dangers of concussions could prevent some of the serious health conditions that many current and former athletes have experienced.  Such awareness could also have a transformative effect on various aspects of sports from rules to equipment to coaching to the law.  

After attending a panel at the recent Harvard Law School Sports Law Symposium and a presentation in my Sports Law class at Quinnipiac Law School, I have a greater appreciation for the broad range of legal issues involved with concussions.  

In an effort to list some of the areas of the law dealing with concussions, I have briefly described the legislative and administrative issues.  Next week, I’ll take a look at concussion-related rule changes and litigation.

1.  Legislative

According to NFL Health and Safety, 31 states plus the District of Colombia and City of Chicago have adopted youth concussion laws.  The NFL supports the following principles of the model legislation knows as the Lystedt Law (named for Zackery Lystedt who suffered a brain injury as a middle school football player):

  1. Inform and educate youth athletes, their parents and guardians and require them to sign a concussion information form;
  2. Removal of a youth athlete who appears to have suffered a concussion from play or practice at the time of the suspected concussion; and
  3. Requiring a youth athlete to be cleared by a licensed health care professional trained the evaluation and management of concussions before returning to play or practice.

Click here for NFL Health and Safety’s 50-state legislative update.

2.  Administrative

One of the major issues, from youth leagues to the NFL, is implementing a policy to help recognize concussions, treat concussions, and ensure that a player does not return to the field before being cleared by a medical professional.  Training parents, coaches and players to recognize the signs of a concussion is essential.  Although  youth sports leagues quickly come to mind, even the NFL has had difficulties with this concept as demonstrated by the Colt McCoy situation last year.

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