NFL officials urge state to protect against concussions

December 14, 2010 6:06:24 PM PST
National Football League officials and high-profile retired players are pushing state lawmakers to do more to protect student athletes from concussions. They are backing an assembly bill that expands new rules on safety precautions.

No one knows a concussion like the NFL where big hits win praise, and returning to play afterwards is lauded.

"I lost my vision in my left eye, I mean, it totally blacked out. I'm in the huddle and the guys are asking me am I OK? 'Of course, I'm OK. I'm fine,'" says former San Francisco 49er player Eric Davis.

But the NFL now takes concussions seriously in its own ranks with strict return-to-play rules. The league hopes youth sports does the same because far too many children are going back in to play too early, risking more serious injury.

Texas, Washington and Oregon already have laws that address concussions in student athletes. The NFL is helping almost a dozen other states including California adopt one.

Former players, like Davis, Keena Turner and Jim Otto and NFL representatives urged Sacramento to pass a bipartisan proposal requiring kids high school age or younger to get a note from a doctor and a parent approving the child's return to play.

"This is not just a football issue. It's female soccer players, female volleyball players, boys' basketball, boys' hockey. Concussions are a serious issue there too," says NFL senior advisor Joe Browne.

It takes the decision away from coaches who may look the other way to win a game or the kids themselves who don't want to disappoint their team.

Softball player Jenna Fong suffered a concussion and would have kept playing if her coach had let her.

"I definitely didn't want to miss a week of games and practice, but it was for my safety, so I can't argue too much," says student athlete Jenna Fong.

"It's dangerous. If you want to get in there and go out and get hurt more, that's your choice. But I would get a doctor's note," says student athlete Michael Tellez.

Critics say the proposal is too weak.

The school, coach or player suffers no consequences if anyone is caught bringing back a student-athlete too soon after a head injury.


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