Governor Nathan Deal added his signature to a brand new concussion law Tuesday.
The bill signing took place at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta where doctors advise 20 to 30,000 children with concussions or other brain injuries each year.
“I got home and I fell asleep instantly and I slept for 24 hours straight and they knew there was something wrong,” explained Camryn Johns, who suffered a concussion while playing soccer in February.
The 12-year-old Mount Bethel Christian Academy student was treated at Children’s Healthcare and said she was glad her coach paid attention to her symptoms.
“I saw two of everything and I was really staggering, so the coach pulled me out and didn’t put me back in,” shared Johns. “I think if I had gone back and played another day, I think it would have affected me when I got older or I think I would have had to take off school longer.”
The “Return to Play Act” is designed to make sure all coaches follow that lead.
The law requires schools to come up with a concussion policy. Under that policy, schools must provide the parents of student athletes with information about the risks of concussions. The law states that coaches must take athletes out of a game if he or she appears to have symptoms of a concussion and doctors must clear a student before he or she can return to play.
Governor Deal said the law should help parents feel better about their children’s safety during sporting events.
“I think it will give them some assurance that the coaches and those who work with their children will be trained and educated as to what things to look for and to be very, very cautious about returning a child to play who may very well have suffered a concussion or some other form of a brain injury,” explained Deal. “I think that’s the kind of assurance that parents would like to have.”
The head of Children’s concussion program, Dr. Andrew Reisner, said educating parents and coaches will help students get the medical attention they need.
“The most important thing about concussions is first of all to recognize it. I think that there are a couple of misnomers out there. For example, not all concussions are associated with loss of consciousness. If a child a little bit dazed or confused or doesn’t do quite as well at school the next day, that’s a concussion,” asserted Dr. Reisner. “You don’t have to be ‘knocked out’ to have a concussion.
Reisner explained that requiring a medical professional to “clear” a student before he or she can return to regular sports activities will reduce the likelihood of serious brain damage.
“Most children make an excellent recovery from one concussion,” Reisner said. “However, when they have two or more concussions in a row, then the effects become extremely detrimental and cumulative. So, it’s not a case of one and one makes two. It’s one and one makes 20.”
The law goes into effect on January 1, 2014.