New Law Regarding Concussion Awareness and Training
People have been talking about head injuries in sports and the Ohio legislature listened. Amendments to the Ohio Revised Code that will be in full effect on April 26, 2013 aim to help parents, coaches, and officials recognize the symptoms of concussions and head injuries and require young athletes exhibiting signs of a concussion to be immediately removed from play. The law applies to school district boards of education and to governing authorities of chartered and nonchartered nonpublic schools1, as well as STEM schools2, which are all generally referred to below as “schools.” The law also applies to youth sports organizations3, although schools are the focus of this article.
The Education Piece
The Department of Health has been tasked with creating a concussion and head injury information sheet to educate parents, athletes, and coaches of the signs and symptoms of concussion or head injury and the risks of continuing to participate in an athletic event after sustaining a concussion or head injury4. The Department of Health’s Concussion Information Sheets can be found here:
Schools may not allow students to compete in or even practice for interscholastic athletics until the student has a submitted a form signed by a parent stating the student and parent have received the information sheet. The form must be submitted each school year for each sport in which the student practices or competes5.
In addition, schools may not allow an individual to coach interscholastic athletics unless the individual holds a pupil-activity program permit issued under 3319.303 for coaching interscholastic athletics6. Effective April 26, 2013, R.C. 3319.303 requires each individual applying for a first-time pupil-activity permit to coach interscholastic athletics to successfully complete a training program specifically focused on brain trauma and brain injury management7. Each individual applying for a permit renewal must successfully complete, or have successfully completed within the previous three years, a training program in recognizing the symptoms of concussions and head injuries8. The Department of Health is required to provide a link on its website to at least one free online training program. Here is a link to the Department of Health training programs currently being offered:
Moreover, schools may not permit an individual to referee interscholastic athletics unless the individual holds a pupil-activity program permit issued under 3319.303 for coaching interscholastic athletics or presents evidence that the individual has successfully completed, within the previous three years, a training program in recognizing the symptoms of concussions and head injuries9.
The Removal Piece
If a student practicing for or competing in an interscholastic athletic event exhibits signs, symptoms, or behaviors consistent with having sustained a concussion or head injury, the student must be removed from the event by the coach or a referee10. The coach or referee who removed the student may not allow the student to return to sports that day. Thereafter, the coach or referee may not allow the student to return to sports until the student is assessed by and receives written clearance from a physician or another licensed health care provider authorized by the school who is working in conjunction with a physician11.
Consistent with other sections of the Revised Code granting governmental immunity to school districts in many situations, the legislature specifically included immunity provisions in its concussion legislation. A school district, school board member, or school district employee or volunteer, including coaches and referees, are generally not liable in damages in a civil action for injury, death, or loss to person or property allegedly arising from providing services or performing duties under the new law12. Similar immunity provisions exist specifically for community schools and STEM schools13.
For more information about these issues, or school law questions generally, please feel free to contact any of the attorneys in the Education Law Practice Group at Freund, Freeze & Arnold.
- 1R.C. 3313.539, generally.↑
- 2R.C. 3326.11.↑
- 3R.C. 3707.511 and 3707.51.↑
- 4R.C. 3707.52(A). ↑
- 5R.C. 3313.539(B).↑
- 6R.C. 3319.539(C)(1).↑
- 7R.C. 3319.303(C)(1).↑
- 8R.C. 3319.303(C)(2). ↑
- 9R.C. 3319.539(C)(2). ↑
- 10R.C. 3313.539(D).↑
- 11R.C. 3313.539(E)(1) and (2).↑
- 12R.C. 3313.539(G).↑
- 13R.C. 3314.142; R.C. 3326.27. ↑