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Ohio Schools Will Have to Do More to Protect Student-Athletes from Concussions

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Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 2:17 PM

Donald Miralle / Getty Images

In April, a new state law intended to protect Ohio student athletes from concussions goes into effect. The new law affects all Ohio schools--public and private, charter and traditional public--as well as youth sports organizations.

While schools are taking steps to prevent student-athletes from concussions, some large Ohio school districts fall short in keeping student-athletes save, student-journalists at Kent State University found.

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The new state law requires:

  • Schools and youth sports groups to educate students and their families about the signs and dangers of concussions and head injuries;
  • Coaches to be trained in recognizing the symptoms of concussions and head injuries; and
  • Coaches and referees to pull a student exhibiting signs of concussion or head injury out of practice and games--and keep him or her out until a doctor or other medical professional clears them to return.

It also gives schools, coaches and referees some immunity from being sued in connection with concussions or head injuries.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association already requires officials at high school games to report any suspected concussions.

But as the Kent State student-journalists point out, high school athletes spend more time in practice than in games. And in some school districts, policies protecting student-athletes during practices are lax.

The Kent State reporters surveyed 26 Ohio school districts, including football powerhouses like Mogadore and Steubenville. Of those 26 districts, at least:

  • Seven did not have written policies for the handling of student athlete concussions;
  • Five did not require all coaches to receive mandatory concussion training;
  • Six did not track instances of concussion; and
  • Six had not assessed whether the school district was at risk of being sued in connection with student-athlete concussions.
Some districts did not respond to the students' requests for information.

Football players have lead the charge to raise awareness of and prevent the long-term effects of concussions and head injuries. Thousands of former NFL players are suing the league, accusing it of hiding information about the dangers of concussions.

But at the high-school level, it's not just football players who get concussions, the Kent State reporters found: An athletic trainer at one high school told the Kent State reporters his school has had reported incidences of concussions in tennis and volleyball too.

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