The GAO estimated 400,000 concussions occurred during the past three school years.

Athletes, Parents, Groups Line Up in Support of Concussions Bill

A full committee hearing Thursday included a letter from the NFL, a 17-year-old soccer player's story of difficulties caused by her recent concussion, and strong testimony in support of H.R. 6172.

The U.S. House Education and Labor Committee's hearing Thursday about H.R. 6172, the Protecting Student Athletes from Concussions Act, was a solid show of support for the bill that aims to protect high school students from concussions sustained in school sports. The NFL sent a letter, a 17-year-old Maryland soccer player told of difficulties she's having in school because of a recent concussion, and there was testimony from a physician and a former professional football player.

The committee's Healthy Families and Communities Subcommittee and chair Carolyn McCarthy, D-NY, held a field hearing Sept. 13 on Long Island to hear from athletic trainers, professional athletes, and others about how to prevent brain injuries among these young athletes.

The committee held a hearing in May about concussions' impact on student achievement. Witnesses testified that student athletes’ academic performance in school suffers when concussions are not properly managed. The committee reports about 140,000 high school athletes suffer concussions annually.

An athletic trainer, Craig LoNigro, testified Sept. 13 that concussion statistics underreport the true number of brain injuries occurring on high school athletic fields, and he cited a study that found 15.8 percent of football players who sustain a concussion severe enough to lose consciousness return to play the following day. McCarthy said the GAO estimated 400,000 concussions occurred during the past three school years.

"One of the key priorities of the Healthy Families and Communities Subcommittee has been looking at how we can keep students safe and protected in school. But this is the subcommittee’s first hearing looking at what happens on the athletic field, where many school injuries occur," McCarthy said in her opening statement in the field hearing. "When a student suffers a concussion, a serious chain reaction can occur both on the field and in the classroom. On the playing field, concussions can pose significant health risks to students. While few states have laws, regulations or guidelines around concussions in high school athletics, the issue is gaining traction. In fact there is a bipartisan bill currently pending in the New York legislature, supported by both Republican Senator Hannon from Garden City, and Democratic Senator Johnson of Port Washington. Recently, Suffolk County also passed a resolution on this important issue."

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