TRENTON – On Monday, Senator Richard J. Codey introduced legislation to better protect student-athletes from concussions and brain injuries as a result of their sport, and will be pushing for its swift approval in the State Legislature.
“When it comes to younger athletes and concussions, it’s far better to be safe than sorry,” said Senator Codey, D-Essex. “We need to make sure that athletic trainers at New Jersey’s high schools have the proper training and experience to quickly identify and properly treat concussions in their athletes. Through this bill, we’re taking a necessary step to make sure that school sports are a safer, more rewarding experience for the student-athletes involved.”
The bill would require licensed athletic trainers, as a condition of their biennial license renewal, to complete 24 hours of continuing education in an approved sports medicine curriculum. Under the bill, four hours of the continuing education requirements would have to be devoted to programs or topics related to concussions and brain injuries. Senator Codey noted that such training in identifying, diagnosing and treating concussions and brain injuries would result in fewer complications for that athlete later down the road.
“In the heat of a game or match, it can be difficult for athletic trainers to properly diagnose a concussion or other form of brain injury, but these sorts of injuries carry serious complications later in life,” said Senator Codey. “Studies upon studies have shown that athletes who are not properly diagnosed and treated for concussions face serious medical issues down the road, including second-impact syndrome, ‘punch drunk’ syndrome, memory loss, chronic headaches and dizziness, tinnitus, light sensitivity and emotional outbursts. Research has shown that multiple concussions over the course of a lifetime can make athletes five times more susceptible to dementia and Alzheimer’s later in life, and can put them at a significantly greater risk for clinical depression and other psychological disorders. By requiring trainers to undergo periodic refresher courses in diagnosing and treating concussions and brain injuries, we can hopefully spare young athletes from these health complications.”
Senator Codey, who coaches a travelling basketball team in West Orange, added that more attention is being paid to concussions now as a result of certain high-profile cases involving retired NFL players who are suffering the cumulative effects of a lifetime of undiagnosed or untreated concussions. The lawmaker noted that while concussions and brain injuries have an impact on athletes of all ages, the impact can be most serious on younger athletes, whose bodies and brains are still developing. He said that athletic trainers, coaches, and parents have a responsibility to make sports as safe as possible for their kids, and no child should have to face serious, long-term health implications because someone missed the signs of a concussion.
“While this legislation will go a long way to keep our kids safer in their respective sports, ultimately, trainers, coaches, and parents have a responsibility to step up and do the right thing when one of their athletes suffers a concussion,” said Senator Codey. “In my time as a coach, I’ve seen firsthand that no sport is 100 percent safe, and injuries do happen. However, if coaches, parents and trainers are aware of the risks and act accordingly, we can make sure that our kids avoid long-term complications which will have life-long consequences.”
The bill is expected to be referenced to the Senate Commerce Committee, which handles issues regarding licensure requirements for regulated professions.