House bill sets up national effort to reduce youth concussions

A bipartisan group of House members has proposed legislation that would create a national program aimed at tracking and reducing the incidence of concussions in youth sports.

The Concussion Awareness and Education Act, H.R. 3954, was proposed by Reps. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) and Ann Wagner (R-Mo.). It follows up on a bill Beatty offered with Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) that requires more study of concussions in college sports.

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The new bill finds the incidence of concussions is rising among college athletes, which is leading to more emergency room visits. But it finds there is no data to measure the incidence of concussions among youth sporting groups.

To change that, the bill would require the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to set up a national system for monitoring sports-related concussions in kids ranging from age 5 to age 21. HHS would have to gather the age, sex, race and ethnicity of kids who get concussions, as well as the history these kids have with concussions.

The bill would require the National Institutes of Health and the Secretary of Defense to support research into concussion diagnosis and recovery in younger athletes.

The NIH would also have to develop best practices and guidelines for sports, athletics and military training that help reduce concussions. These guidelines would include recommendations on equipment that helps reduce head injuries.

Finally, the bill requires the establishment of a Concussion Research Commission, which would be tasked with overseeing the activities under the bill and making recommendations to further its goals.

Other sponsors of the bill are Reps. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), Robin Kelly (D-Ill.), Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), and Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.).

The Beatty-Dent bill from August would require the group overseeing collegiate athletes to improve efforts to protect those athletes. It requires schools receiving federal funds to meet certain health and safety guidelines, including annual concussion testing.

It also would prohibit schools from taking away scholarships for athletes who get hurt and cannot compete.