A bill introduced just before the Senate recessed for August could lead to better management and awareness of some necessary aspects of sports safety, including concussions among student athletes, their families, and their coaches. The legislation recognizes physical therapists (PTs) as health care professionals qualified to make return-to-participation decisions for youth sports concussions.
Called the Supporting Athletes, Families, and Educators to Protect the Lives of Athletic Youth Act (SAFE PLAY Act), S. 2718/H.R. 5324 was introduced by Sen Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Reps Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) and Lois Capps (D-CA. The legislation 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.
The initiatives proposed in this legislation are crucial to establishing concussion management guidelines, supporting the treatment of concussions by licensed qualified health professionals such as PTs, and providing resources for state and local entities that are engaged in this issue within the youth sports and academic communities.
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 group as well as for other legislation addressing these injuries. APTA continues to educate policymakers on how PTs are qualified to detect and manage concussions, and the association was recently invited to attend a White House summit on concussions. Additionally, concussions will be the focus of this year's flash action strategy campaign held in conjunction with the APTA Student Assembly, September 8-10.
For information on federal and state legislation, and APTA's position on the role of physical therapists in concussion management, visit APTA's Concussions webpage. Find more resources on the Traumatic Brain Injury webpage, and direct patients to the Physical Therapist's Guide to Concussion, located on APTA's MoveForwardPT.com consumer website.
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