Sports Law • Risk Management

September 23, 2010: Concussion Discussion in Congress Ramps Up

While creating guidelines to help coaches and parents identify when it is safe for a concussed minor child to return to sports; there is potential harm to coaches and sport organizations. Two federal House committees are each working on a federal bill to propose legislation to protect youth from the harms of concussions. One bill is intended to gather experts to draft guidelines on how to manage concussions then dangle a carrot of incentive by offering federal grants to states to establish standards. The other bill would mandate public school districts adopt or adhere to certain standards. This follows a Washington state law that already passed regarding concussion management.

So why should protecting youth from further injury be of concern? Essentially the federal government wants to encourage or require the states to create their own laws surrounding this issue. New laws create new duties for which a breach of such duty can amount to negligence. Negligence can trigger lawsuits, which drives up the cost of sport and insurance as well as make most fearful of litigation. These deterrents may actually take away the ability or opportunity for lesser funded programs to be able to operate. Educating coaches, officials, parents, sports organizations, and athletes on how to appropriately handle concussions is a good idea, but it should be left as guidelines and not evolve into requirements.