Gone are the days when our kids’ coaches could feign ignorance about concussions. If the flood of information over the past four years about concussions and their seriousness wasn’t enough to educate our youth sport coaches (since the passage of Oregon’s 2009 landmark concussion law known as Max’s Law), then the recent implementation of Jenna’s law is. As of Jan. 1, anyone who coaches our kids, in whatever league, must know about concussions and must know what to do if one of his or her players is suspected of having a concussion.
Jenna’s Law, named after Sisters, Ore., athlete Jenna Sneva, requires all youth sport coaches to get educated about concussions and to implement protocols for an athlete suspected of being concussed. Max’s Law requires all high school coaches to follow a similar concussion protocol. Those protocols include immediately taking the player out of the game, getting the player checked out by an appropriate medical professional and not allowing that concussed player to return to play until he or she has been cleared by a medical professional to do so.
The motivation behind Jenna’s Law and Max’s Law is simple: If one of our young athletes is concussed and if that athlete suffers a second concussion before the first concussion is allowed to heal, then that athlete is at significant risk of second impact syndrome (SIS). Max Conradt, the namesake of Max’s Law, developed SIS after he suffered a second concussion within a week’s time of a previous concussion, and the passage and implementation of Jenna’s Law, where all of our youth coaches are held to the same standard as high school coaches, is the logical extension of the enlightened policy behind Max’s Law.
Jenna’s Law is a sweeping education bill that will benefit Oregon’s young athletes for all time. The law requires all coaches and referees to take one of the available (and free) on-line concussion education courses and then to use that education to protect our kids. The law further provides that the parents of players and the players themselves (who are 12 years old and older) take one of the on-line concussion courses.
What the law will do is create an entire community of players, coaches, referees and parents who are educated about and aware of the terrible risks posed by concussions. It promises to be one of the most important youth protection and education bills ever passed by the Oregon Legislature and it further promises to be a literal lifesaving law.
A coach is given a tremendous responsibility when he or she is entrusted with our kids and we, as parents, are tasked with doing all we can to keep our kids safe, so when the Legislature passes and the governor signs a bill of this magnitude, we all have a responsibility to abide by it. If just one child is spared the ravages of SIS then this new law will be worth everything. If even more young athletes are spared, it will be closer to a miracle.
David Kracke is an attorney in Portland.
Find this article on the Oregonian online at www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2014/01/new_concussion_law_will_protec.html.