SCIENCE

Update: NC Won’t Let Parents Put Hurt Kids Back Into Games

They actually listened

SCIENCE
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Feb 27, 2017 at 3:22 PM ET

Editor’s Note: An update can be found at the bottom of this story.

North Carolina lawmakers hope to allow parents to choose when their concussed kids can return to the field, instead of requiring approval from a qualified medical professional. Seriously.

Right now, North Carolina law requires immediate removal of any student displaying concussion symptoms during a game. House Bill 116, should it pass, will give parents the power to decide when their concussed child can resume playing. It is perhaps worth noting that most parents are not qualified medical professionals.

Dr. Katie Flanagan, Director of Athletic Training at East Carolina University, told Vocativ that she appreciated the intent of the bill’s authors, but does see significant areas for improvement. “I don’t want to bash anything that supports student safety in athletics,” Flanagan said, “However, our state has a very robust concussion law.”

Flanagan is referring to the Gfeller-Waller Concussion Awareness Act. Signed into law in 2011, Gfeller-Waller supports North Carolina safety initiatives in numerous ways that overlap with HB116, including regular concussion safety training for school staff. However, Section 3b of the law protects our nation’s concussed middle and high schoolers from overzealous Buddy Garrity-wannabes by requiring clearance from a physician, neuropsychologist, nurse practitioner, or athletic trainer before being allowed to compete again.

Gfeller-Waller, unsurprisingly, was drafted in consultation with a variety of state medical associations, including the Brain Injury Association of North Carolina and the North Carolina Medical Society. In other words, they asked doctors.

House Bill 116 has its merits, as Flanagan is quick to reiterate. For example, the bill supports creation of a database collecting catastrophic injuries, including concussions. Even still, stronger bills have seen some momentum in recent years.

Flanagan cites House Resolution 112, also known as the Student Safety Bill of Rights, as a national bill that combines the “power of Congress” and the knowledge of national organizations that currently work on student athlete safety. Beyond having the backing of the National Athletic Trainer’s Association, instead of, say, your mom, it provides a level of rigor that keeps kids safe.

Unfortunately, though HR-112 had bipartisan support from over 54 sponsors and passed through the House, it didn’t make it through the Senate before the 114th Congress closed. “Now, we have to start over,” Flanagan said.

“I’ll preface by saying I’m not a parent, but I don’t believe HB 116 is in the best interest of the athletes,” said Flanagan, who has over 37 years of medical experience. Further, she emphasized that even the most well-trained parent has biases that can compromise their child’s health.

Regardless, Flanagan is hopeful that she can work with legislatures that want to hear her counsel: “If these gentlemen and women wanted to get on some sort of national bill working with the health and safety people that are already in place, that would be amazing.”

Listen to the professionals, folks.

UPDATE: They listened! USA Today reports that North Carolina legislators will revise the bill so that only qualified medical professionals can pull concussed kids out of games. State Rep. Greg Murphy, the lawmaker that sponsored the damned bill, told USA Today “I’m not sure why that was included, but it’s definitely going to be removed.”

False Start Is For The Children.