BY KURT SAMSON
A bill that would create a task force to develop national guidelines to reduce sport concussions among school athletes has passed the first hurdle on the way to becoming law.
On Sept. 23, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the Concussion Treatment and Care Tools (ConTACT) Act (HR 1347), preparing it for a floor vote. The measure would require the secretary of health and human services to assemble a panel of medical experts to develop national concussion sideline management guidelines.
The proposal mandates sideline screening by a health care professional trained in concussion symptoms, and any athlete with signs of concussion would have to undergo more extensive neuropsychological examination by a physician and be cleared before returning to play or practice.
The same day, the House Education and Labor Committee held its second hearing on another bill, the Protecting Student Athletes from Concussions Act (HR 6172), which focuses on raising awareness of sports concussions and head injuries in K-12 athletes. It would require public school districts to develop sports concussion management plans with return-to-play restrictions.
HR 6172 has the support of almost 90 organizations dedicated to reducing head injuries, including the AAN, the North American Brain Injury Association, the Center for the Study of Traumatic Brain Injury, and the National Association of Neuropsychiatry.
In an e-mail to Neurology Today, AAN Chief Health Policy Officer Rod Larson said the AAN was supportive of the Contact Act in Congress and is tracking state legislation on the issue. “We are in the process of completing a policy position statement on this issue and are hopeful to have an official position in the very near future,” Larson said. He noted that the AAN is currently updating its 1997 clinical practice guideline on the management of concussion in sports, and the new guideline is expected to be completed later next year.
“We do believe this is an important issue and that athletes that are suspected to have suffered a concussion should be evaluated by neurologists trained in the evaluation and management of sports concussions before returning to play,” he said.
Tony L. Strickland, PhD, associate clinical professor of neurology at the David Geffen School of Medicine of the University of California-Los Angeles, applauded the legislative initiatives. However, Dr. Strickland, who also directs the Concussion Management and Memory Disorders Clinics at the Sports Concussion Institute in Los Angeles, noted that there is a shortage of physicians, and even neurologists, who are familiar with sports concussions.
“Baseline evaluations are needed for all athletes, but by neurologists and neuropsychologists who understand athletes and sport-induced injuries — this is absolutely critical,” he told Neurology Today in a telephone interview.
For a more on what sports neurologists and physicians say needs to be done for management of concussion, read “Capitol Hill Lawmakers Tackle Football Concussions in School Athletes,” in the Oct. 21 Neurology Today.