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Faipule make a move to codify concussion guidelines for youth sports

Rep. Larry Sanitoa

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The House yesterday approved a bill proposing to designate the Department of Health to set forth head trauma or concussion guidelines.

This is not the first time a measure of this type has been proposed by Tualauta faipule, Larry Sanitoa, along with numerous co-sponsors.

Sanitoa told Samoa News the Head Trauma Bill specifically provides that each government agency and private association that sponsors youth athletics would invest each coach with primary supervisory responsibility.

 “And all individuals who officiate youth athletic competition, [would be required] to complete an annual concussion recognition education course; plus set forth the contents of the course; designate a Department of Education and/or Department of Health Certified Athletic Trainer (ATCs) as responsible agencies for providing the course; set forth required head trauma guidelines; require coaches and officials to adhere to such guidelines; provide limited immunity for coaches, officials, agencies and associations; provide for injunctive relief to require compliance with education requirement.”

Adding that as indicated in the preamble of the bill, concussions are one of the most commonly reported injuries in children and adolescents who participate in sports and recreational activities.

 “The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that as many as 3,900,000 sports-related and recreation-related concussions occur in the United States each year. 

A concussion is caused by a blow or motion to the head or body that causes the brain to move rapidly inside the skull. The risk of catastrophic injury or death is significant when a concussion or head injury is not properly evaluated and managed.

The Legislature finds that awareness of sports concussion injuries and the proper management of such injuries needs to be increased. It further finds that without required concussion recognition education and without recognized return to play standards for concussion and head injuries, some affected youth athletes may be prematurely returned to play resulting in actual or potential physical injury or death to youth athletes in American Samoa.

 “The bill took us a while to get introduced because it went through a long review process by Ms. Florence Wasko, a certified athletic trainer on island, medical doctors and our legal team. This legislation is similar to statutes in Hawaii and other states and territories on head trauma.

Due to the seriousness of head trauma to our youth, the bill only addresses the concussion awareness and proper management of such injuries in sports. It does not address all other sport injuries, Sanitoa said.

According to the proposed measure:

 “Concussions are a type of brain injury that can range from mild to severe and can disrupt the way the brain normally works. 

 “Concussions can occur in any organized or unorganized sport or recreational activity and can result from a fall or from players colliding with each other, the ground, or with obstacles.  Concussions occur with or without loss of consciousness, but the vast majority occurs without loss of consciousness.  Continuing to play with a concussion or symptoms of head injury leaves the young athlete especially vulnerable to greater injury and even death.”

Furthermore the Legislature finds that awareness of sports concussion injuries and the proper management of such injuries needs to be increased. 

 “It further finds that without required concussion recognition education and without recognized return to play standards for concussion and head injuries, some affected youth athletes may be prematurely returned to play resulting in actual or potential physical injury or death to youth athletes in American Samoa.”

The bill says that if a coach or official who is required to complete concussion recognition education and suspects that a youth athlete has sustained a concussion following an observed or suspected blow to the head or body in a game, competition, or practice, or based on a reliable and credible report of such a blow made immediately or shortly after the blow, the coach or official shall immediately remove the athlete from the game, competition, or practice.

 “If a youth athlete is removed from play pursuant to subsection (a) of this section and the signs and symptoms cannot be readily explained by a condition other than concussion, the coach shall not permit the youth athlete to return to play or participate in any supervised team activities involving physical exertion, including games, competitions, or practices, until he or she is evaluated by a health professional and receives written clearance to return to play from the health professional.  The licensed health professional evaluating a youth athlete suspected of having a concussion or brain injury may be a volunteer.”

The bill also indicates that a party in interest, including the parent or legal guardian of a youth athlete, may petition the High Court of American Samoa for injunctive or declaratory relief for enforcement of the concussion recognition education course provisions.

 “In such an action, the prevailing party, as determined by the court, shall be entitled to recovery of attorney fees and costs, also as determined by the court.”