Concussion Management Legislation

Concussions in student athletes are a growing public health problem that demands immediate attention. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates nearly 3.8 million incidences of sports-related concussions occur every year. Legislative and policy efforts at the state and local level on concussion management have been highly inconsistent. This inconsistency can be a detriment to the quality of care and considerations necessary for the complexity of concussion injuries within active student athletes.

On November 19, 2013, Representatives Tim Bishop (D-NY) and George Miller (D-CA) reintroduced the Protecting Student Athletes From Concussions Act (HR 3532), legislation that establishes guidelines around prevention, identification, treatment, and management of concussions in school-age children, and acknowledges the role that physical therapists (PTs) have in evaluating and treating these injuries.

The legislation would require states to implement concussion safety and management plans that include return-to-play requirements and academic supports. Additionally, the bill requires that any student who suffers a concussion be immediately removed from any participation in school sports until he or she receives a written release from a health care professional. Physical therapists are explicitly listed as one of the professionals qualified to make these return-to-play decisions.

On July 30, 2014, Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Representatives Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) and Lois Capps (D-CA) introduced the Supporting Athletes, Families, and Educators to Protect the Lives of Athletic Youth Act (SAFE PLAY Act), S. 2718/H.R. 5324. The legislation recognizes physical therapists (PTs) as health care professionals qualified to make return-to-participation decisions for youth sports concussions. Additionally, it provides for education, awareness, action plans, training, and further research related to health issues associated with sports—including cardiac conditions, concussions, and heat advisories—in which PTs play a role.

Of note, the SAFE PLAY Act would call for school districts to have concussion management action plans that teach students, parents, and school personnel how to prevent, recognize, and respond to concussions, including assistance in the safe return of student athletes to academic and athletic performance. The legislation encourages the development of guidelines consistent with those to be developed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Pediatric Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Guideline Work Group, a group supported by APTA that includes 2 APTA members.

Concussion prevention and management—particularly in youth sports—has been a particular focus of APTA over recent years, with the association advocating for continued support of the CDC work. APTA continues to educate policymakers on how PTs are qualified to detect and manage concussions.

How To Take Action

E-mail your legislators. APTA has provided prewritten letters for APTA members on the Legislative Action Center

Meet with your legislators. Schedule a district meeting, attend a town hall event, or invite your legislators to visit your practice over recess. This is a great opportunity to meet with your members of Congress locally and discuss the importance of repealing the therapy cap.

Join PTeam. Join the PTeam to receive e-mail updates on the latest SGR and therapy cap news and receive alerts when it is time to take action and contact your members of Congress on these reform policies.

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