A high school athlete who has concussion symptoms would be required to pass a medical check before they could continue playing under legislation that has reached the South Carolina Senate.
The House last month unanimously approved a bill that would require doctors or trainers to go through a checklist before they could clear an athlete in any sport to continue playing.
“All studies that I’ve seen show that the real powerful impacts a concussion can have on you later on down the line usually happen when you’re in middle school or high school,” said State Rep. Peter McCoy (R-Charleston), who sponsored the legislation. “The long and lasting effects are seen once folks enter into adulthood.”
The legislation would require the state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) to post “nationally recognized guidelines and procedures” used for recognizing concussion symptoms and knowing when to allow an injured player back into the game. School districts would be expected to craft their own guidelines based on the DHEC list. Trainers and physicians would then use the guidelines as a checklist to decide whether to allow a player with a possible head injury to return.
McCoy said he wants to make sure that all schools treat a possible concussion with equal precaution in all sports– not just those viewed as “contact” sports.
Currently, the South Carolina High School League requires all coaches to take a training course on recognizing concussions, but it does not clearly give any specifics about when an athlete must come out of the game for medical reasons. It instead leaves that to the coach’s or trainer’s discretion.
“It really does protect kids who are at risk and… makes sure that somebody’s clearing them before they go back,” Rep. Kris Crawford (R-Florence)— an ER doctor— told his colleagues before the March 20 vote. “Far too many athletes go back onto the field hurt and injured and the consequences of these accrue and accrue and cut careers short.”
Rep. Jackie Hayes (D-Dillon), a high school football coach himself, said he wants to see schools take the extra precautions. “A lot of times athletes have concussions and never really know it. It puts a big effect on them later in life.”
The bill also clarifies that trainers or physicians who examine the athlete cannot be held liable for their diagnosis, with exceptions for “gross negligence” or “wilfull, wanton misconduct.”
A similar bill McCoy sponsored last year cleared an education subcommittee, but never reached the House floor.