Montana Adopts Concussion Policy for Youth Athletics

By Beacon Staff

Gov. Steve Bullock on Monday signed into law Senate Bill 112, called the Dylan Steigers Protections of Youth Athletes Act, which promotes statewide concussion prevention in sports.

The law requires school districts to adopt policies that address the dangers of concussions in youth sports, primarily by requiring athletes who exhibit signs or symptoms of a concussion to receive medical approval before returning to play. The law covers any athletic activity sponsored by a school or school district, and includes practices, tryouts, training exercises and sports camps.

“As the father of three very active kids, I appreciate just how important it is to make sure our young athletes and their parents understand the signs and potential consequences of concussion,” Bullock said in a statement.

Concussions are one of the most commonly reported injuries in children and adolescents who participate in sports and recreational activities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An estimated 3.9 million sports-related concussions occur each year. Until now Montana was one of six remaining states in the U.S. without a concussion policy.

The bill is named in honor of Dylan Steigers, a 21-year-old Missoula native who died in 2010 after sustaining consecutive concussions while playing football at Eastern Oregon University.

Sen. Anders Blewett, D-Great Falls, crafted the bill as the primary sponsor. Kalispell Republican Sen. Jon Sonju and Sen. Scott Reichner, R-Bigfork, supported the bill as co-sponsors.

“We owe it to our young athletes to do everything in our power to prevent repeat brain injuries,” said Blewett. “This bill will go a long way toward making that happen.”

The bill culminates after a two-year effort by the Brain Injury Alliance of Montana and the Governor’s task force on traumatic brain injuries to protect student athletes from brain injury caused by repeat concussions.

Each school district is now tasked with adopting policies and procedures to inform athletic trainers, coaches, officials, youth athletes and parents or guardians of the nature and risk of brain injuries, including the effects of continuing to play after a concussion. An athletic trainer, coach or official can remove an athlete from participation in any organized activity if signs, symptoms or behaviors exist, the bill states. The athlete cannot resume participation until a licensed health care professional evaluates them and clears them to play with a written clearance.

“Licensed health care professional” means a registered, licensed, certified, or otherwise statutorily recognized health care professional whose training includes the evaluation and management of concussions.

RELATED: Keeping Safety in Mind

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.