Policy Corner: Concussion Advocacy on Capitol Hill

Members of Congress turned to ACSM Sept. 23 for guidance on concussion policy. A full day on the Hill included a committee hearing (Education & Labor, chaired by Rep. George Miller), a briefing co-sponsored by ACSM and the NFL, and individual meetings with legislators and staff. Sandwiched in between were interviews with CBS News, Dan Rather Reports, and other media. Three Members of Congress spoke at the briefing, reflecting the timeliness and gravity of the subject.

The purpose was to help shape federal laws on concussion in student athletes, part of ACSM’s initiative to enhance the health and safety of youth athletes. Testimony and recommendations were founded on the latest research, informed by clinical experience, and personified by the recollections of a teen who struggled after being concussed and returned to play too soon.

Using the Zackery Lystedt Law (Washington) as an example, panelists emphasized three essential elements of effective concussion policies:
  • Education of coaches, athletes, parents and athletic trainers
  • Removal from play or practice of any athlete showing symptoms of concussion
  • Return to play as a medical decision
Discussion concerned two House bills reflecting different sides of the student/athlete equation. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr.’s Concussion Treatment and Care Tools (ConTACT) Act recently moved out of committee. Pascrell (NJ-8) co-chairs the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force. Rep. George Miller (CA-7) chairs the House Education and Labor Committee, which held the Sept. 23 hearing. Miller recently introduced his bill, the Protecting Student Athletes from Concussions Act.

In addition to Pascrell, briefing attendees heard from:
  • Congressman Mike McIntyre (NC-7), co-chair, Congressional Youth Sports Caucus
  • Congressman Jim Jordan (OH-4), co-chair, Congressional Youth Sports Caucus
  • Michael Bergeron, Ph.D., FACSM, Sanford Medical Ctr., Sioux Falls, SD
  • Gerard A. Gioia, Ph.D., Children's National Medical Ctr., Rockville, MD
  • Kevin Guskiewicz, Ph.D., FACSM, U. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Stanley Herring, M.D., FACSM, U. of Washington Medical Ctr.
  • Jeff Miller, Vice President, Government Relations & Public Policy, National Football League
  • Sarah Rainey, student/athlete, West Potomac High School, Alexandria, VA
  • Stephen Rice, M.D., Ph.D., FACSM, Jersey Shore University Medical Ctr.
The Congressional briefing was the first of a series ACSM is planning together with the Youth Sports Caucus, addressing the spectrum of issues affecting the health and safety of youth athletes.

Visit ACSM’s Facebook page for photos of last week’s briefing.