WHAT OTHERS SAY: Time to make student athletes safer

Monday, August 1, 2011 | 3:26 p.m. CDT

Now, the serious game action gets under way in stopping student athletes from suffering concussions and other brain injuries.

Missouri's lawmakers have laid out the field with the Interscholastic Youth Sports Brain Injury Prevention Act. We supported this proposal in a February 2010 editorial, and we're pleased lawmakers took action.

The new law requires that a student athlete suspected of a concussion or brain injury be removed from play immediately and for at least 24 hours. He or she can't resume playing until being evaluated and given written clearance "under the guidelines developed" by the Department of Health and Senior Services.

Now is the time for parents, school officials and medical professionals to join the game.

By Dec. 31, the department must establish the rules for educating participants on these injuries. It's not too early to contact the school board of your district, athletic activities associations and groups involved with people with brain injuries to educate yourself and express your view.

The law also seeks to collect more data on these types of injuries and make that information available to parents and officials.

In addition to being required to acknowledge they have been informed, parents will have access to an annual report on these injuries to student athletes and efforts made to minimize them. The first report is due in January.

Now is the time for a step urged by Jim Raynor, St. John's administrative director for sports medicine: Every sports program should have an athletic trainer advocating for players' health. This person, plus a physician, the student, parent and school representative must reach a consensus on an injury.

We believe this position should be seen as being as important as the coach's job. The person should have the knowledge and the authority to safeguard our student athletes. Whether we're speaking of school districts or colleges, Mighty Mites or Legion baseball, boys or girls, there needs to be an expanded role for this guardian so that generally good programs can be better.

So, let's get in the game.

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