By: Brittany Flaherty Theis
The Illinois Legislature has enacted the Youth Sports Concussion Safety Act (the “Act”), which adds new requirements for school districts, the Illinois High School Association, and the Illinois State Board of Education. The Act creates Section 22-80 of the Illinois School Code, which applies to the 2016-2017** school year. Specifically, the Act requires school districts to create concussion oversight teams, which must establish return-to-play and return-to-learn protocols, adds details regarding a student’s removal from and return to athletic participation, training requirements for specific personnel, and requires each school to have an emergency action plan.
Concussion Oversight Team
Pursuant to the Act, the governing body of each school must appoint or approve a concussion oversight team, comprised of at least one physician (to the extent practicable), an athletic trainer (if one is employed at the school), the school nurse (if one is employed at the school), and other licensed healthcare professionals appointed by the school. The school must appoint a person who is responsible for implementing and complying with the return-to-play and return-to-learn protocols adopted by the concussion oversight team.
Return-to-Play and Return-to-Learn Protocols
The concussion oversight team must establish a return-to-play protocol, based on peer-reviewed scientific evidence consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, for a student’s return to interscholastic athletics practice or competition following a force or impact believed to have caused a concussion. The team must also establish a return-to-learn protocol, based on peer-reviewed scientific evidence consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, for a student’s return to the classroom after that student is believed to have experienced a concussion, whether or not the concussion took place while the student was participating in an interscholastic athletic activity.
A student may not participate in an interscholastic athletic activity for a school year until the student and the student’s parent or guardian have signed the IHSA’s pre-participation form, which acknowledges receiving and reading written information that explains concussion prevention, symptoms, treatment, and oversight and that includes guidelines for safely resuming participation in an athletic activity following a concussion. This form already exists and is likely used by many Illinois school districts.
A student must be removed from interscholastic athletics practice or competition immediately if one of the following persons believes the student might have sustained a concussion during the practice or competition:
1) A coach;
2) A physician;
3) A game official;
4) An athletic trainer;
5) The student’s parent or guardian or another person with legal authority to make medical decisions for the student;
6) The student; or
7) Any other person deemed appropriate under the school’s return-to-play protocol.
A student so removed may not practice or compete again until:
1) The student has been evaluated by a treating physician or an athletic trainer working under the supervision of a physician, and that individual has provided a written statement indicating it is safe for the student to return to play and return to learn;
2) The student has successfully completed each requirement of the return-to-play and return-to-learn protocols established by the concussion oversight team;
3) The student and the student’s parent or guardian have acknowledged the student has completed the requirements of the return-to-play and return-to-learn protocols necessary, have provided the physician’s or athletic trainer’s written statement (listed above) to the person responsible for compliance with the return-to-play and return-to-learn protocols, and have signed a consent form.
The consent form that must be signed by the student and parent or guardian prior to the student’s return-to-play and return-to-learn must indicate that the person signing has been informed of and consents to the student participating in returning to play in accordance with the return-to-play and return-to-learn protocols; understands the risks associated with returning to play and returning to learn and will comply with any ongoing requirements in those protocols; and consents to disclosure of the physician’s or athletic trainer’s written statement and recommendation in accordance with the law.
A coach of an interscholastic athletics team may not authorize a student’s return to play or return to learn.
Supervisory Responsibilities The district superintendent or the superintendent’s designee must supervise an athletic trainer or other person responsible for compliance with the return-to-play protocol and must supervise the person responsible for compliance with the return-to-learn protocol. The designee may not be a coach of an interscholastic athletics team.
The IHSA must approve training courses that provide not less than 2 hours of training for coaches and game officials. School nurses (whether serving as employees or volunteers) and athletic trainers must also participate in concussion-related continuing education. Proof of completion must be submitted to the district superintendent or designee. Each of those individuals must initially complete the training by September 1, 2016.
Emergency Action Plan
The governing body of each public school must develop a school-specific emergency action plan for interscholastic athletic activities to address the serious injuries and acute medical conditions in which the condition of the student may deteriorate rapidly. The plan must include a delineation of roles, methods of communication, available emergency equipment, and access to and a plan for emergency transport. The emergency action plan must be in writing, reviewed by the concussion oversight team, approved by the superintendent or his designee, distributed to all appropriate personnel, posted conspicuously at all venues utilized by the school, and reviewed annually by all athletic trainers, first responders, coaches, school nurses, athletic directors, and volunteers for interscholastic activities.
Whitt Law attorneys are available to answer your questions regarding the impact of the Act on your public school. Please contact Whitt Law Attorney Brittany Flaherty Theis should you have any questions.
**Please note that Senate Bill 219 was signed into law as Public Act 99-0486 on November 20, 2015. Public Act 99-0486 requires compliance with these provisions by the 2016-2017 school year, rather than the 2015-2016 school year. Senate Bill 219 was a trailer bill to the legislation initially discussed in this post.**
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