Coaches Could Be Penalized For Concussions

BERLIN- With an increased awareness of the dangers of sports concussions, from the professional ranks down to the lowest youth sports levels, a pre-filed bill in the Maryland General Assembly could increase penalties, including suspensions, for coaches who allow concussed student-athletes to return to action.

With the General Assembly session slated to start in mid-January, dozens of bills have been pre-filed in the House and Senate covering a wide variety of issues. Anne Arundel County Delegate Mark Chang has filed a bill outlining stringent penalties for coaches who allow youth sports participants suspected of sustaining concussions to return to practice or games without following the accepted protocols and getting clearance from a licensed medical professional.

It goes without saying sports concussions have risen to the forefront in recent years from the NFL down to youth soccer leagues, and coaches and trainers are more aware than ever of the dangers of continuing to compete even with a potential head injury. Most coaches are aware of the dangers and steps have been added in the protocol to ensure the safety of the young athletes, but the bill pre-filed in the House would codify the penalties for not doing so.

The bill would require local boards of education to suspend a coach who violates certain provisions of the laws pertaining to sports concussions. The bill, if approved, would penalize coaches who allow a player to return to practice or a game if the player is suspected of sustaining a concussion or other head injury.

Under the proposed bill, a student who is suspected of sustaining a concussion or other head injury in a practice or game shall be removed from play at that time. A student who is removed from play may not return until obtaining written clearance from a licensed health care provider trained in the evaluation and management of concussions. Under the proposed legislation, before a student steps onto a practice field, court or mat on school property, he or she must be provided information on concussions and head injuries.

According to the bill, a coach would be suspended from coaching any athletic activity for the remainder of that season for a first offense. A second violation would result in a suspension from the current season and the following season. A third offense would result in a permanent suspension from coaching any athletic activity.

Before any suspension for violating the concussion laws for student-athletes, a coach must be sent a copy of the charges and would be given an opportunity to request a hearing within 10 days of receiving the suspension notice. If a coach requests a hearing, the county school board would be required to promptly hold the hearing during which the coach and any witnesses would be allowed to testify. Finally, a coach would have an opportunity to appeal any suspension handed down at the county level to the state Board of Education.