Indiana could soon become the first state to require high school football coaches to take part in a player safety and concussion-training course. The bill authored by Sen. Travis Holdman, R–Markle, would require the course every two years.
“We’d be very proud to do this since USA Football, an arm of the NFL and players union is basically housed now and based” in Indianapolis, Holdman said. The bill would also parallel a Washington state law by requiring football players to wait 24 hours before returning to the field of play after a concussion.
Holdman said Indiana is the eighth state to copy Washington’s law, but the first state to add the coaches’ training course. Currently, the bill only requires high school football coaches take part in the training course, but Holdman said he hopes to work with soccer programs in the future.
“We went with football because of the complexity of the sport and the fact that we have a certified program in place for safety purposes,” Holdman said. “We just don’t have that in place for other sports.” He said he has support from all over the state.
Bobby Cox, commissioner of the Indiana High School Athletic Association said he doesn’t oppose the legislation, but doesn’t think it’s necessary. “You don’t want the coach to be making that decision,” Cox said.
Current IHSAA protocol requires that if an athlete might have a concussion, the athlete must see a physician.
“We’ve had that protocol for over two years – before concussion language was written,” Cox said, “I think the protocols, as long as they’re executed, they’re appropriate.”
If athletes are cleared by a physician or an athletic trainer during the game and show no sign of concussion, they are allowed to re-enter. But if athletes are diagnosed with a concussion, they must wait 24 hours before returning to any athletic activity.
“In absence of a health professional, the official removes the athlete from the contest, and they cannot return until there is a written release forms a doctor,” Cox said. Cox said parents or guardians receive the concussion protocol paper work before each sports season and must sign it for their children to participate.
“I think the (law) we have on the books right now is great,” said Dr. John Baldea, a sports medicine physician for IU Health. “I’d like to see the state law trimmed down a bit so that it exactly states that physicians only are allowed to do that.”
Baldea said other medical professionals – including chiropractors and podiatrists – can clear athletes with concussions to return to play under the current law
“We’re seeing some people who don’t know what they’re doing trying to clear athletes to return and play football,” said Baldea. “The IHSAA is very strict on that, but the state law is not very strict.”