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A Dangerous Game: Supporters hope to revive Return to Play Act

POSTED: July 21, 2012 6:07 p.m.

Republican state representative Sharon Cooper said he was disappointed when House Bill 673 didn’t even draw a vote in this year’s general assembly. Known as the Return To Play Act, it was a bipartisan bill was aimed at having a very specific protocol for athletes who suffered a concussion to be able to return to play at the high school and youth level of sports.

“I feel like it’s a duty of the government to inform the public about public health issues,” said Cooper, of Marietta. “I feel like this law would be a good start.”

Cooper wasn’t alone in her disappointment. The bill had the total backing of Georgia High School Association executive director Ralph Swearngin, Georgia Concussion Coalition and the Georgia Athletic Trainers Association.

Support for the bill reached the highest level of the sport with former Falcons linebacker Buddy Curry and a few of the team’s current players speaking before the Health and Human Services Committee in favor of the bill during legislative session on Feb. 8 at the State Capital.

In addition to that, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NCAA executive director Mark Emmert both submitted letters in favor of the bill.

And even though the Act received a favorable report on Feb. 23, it was withdrawn and recommitted on March 5, meaning it will have to be submitted again from scratch next year.

Without the law passed, Georgia is one of just 12 states in the nation that doesn’t have legislation on the books dealing with concussions, most notably impacting football.

Swearngin is still pushing for an across-the-board protocol regarding concussion awareness at all the schools in the state. Step one, making coaches and officials aware of the signs to look for in a player who may have suffered a concussion. Step two is to require that a medical professional (either a doctor, physician’s assistant, nurse practitioner or athletic trainer) clear the impacted player before returning to play.

“If there’s any doubt, keep them out,” Swearngin said. “There’s no such thing as a mild concussion.”

Jeff Hopp, president of the Georgia Athletic Trainers Association, supported the Return to Play Act, noting that an important part will be for players to have a concussion-awareness sheet read and signed that outlines all the signs and symptoms of a concussion. Along with Swearngin, Hopp stresses the importance of making sure players use proper tackling technique.

Cooper, Swearngin and Hopp all plan to get behind the bill and having it re-introduced next year in legislative session.


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