Georgia Governor Nathan Deal joined forces with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and the National Football League by signing House Bill 284 into law Tuesday morning at Scottish Rite Hospital.
The legislation, known as The Return-to-Play Act of 2013, was introduced by State Representative Jimmy Pruett and becomes effective Jan. 1, 2014. The bill will require schools and organized athletic leagues to educate parents on the risks of concussions and develop policies for youth athletes who show signs of a concussion.
"Even the mildest bump or blow to the head can lead to a concussion," said Deal. "I am proud to sign this bill that serves to protect Georgia's young athletes from sustaining very serious injuries if the condition goes unnoticed or untreated. A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that should never be overlooked and we all need to know the symptoms to look for. I am grateful to the NFL, our very own Atlanta Falcons, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and the members of the General Assembly who have worked so long to ensure that this legislation was brought to the forefront."
As Georgia's leading resource for sports-related youth concussion diagnosis, care and education, Children's actively participated in support of this concussion bill. In 2012 alone, Children's treated more than 1,400 concussion patients and managed more than 5,000 calls through its concussion nurse coordinator. During peak sports season in September, more than 200 concussion patients visited Children's emergency departments and urgent care centers – a 33 percent increase from 2011.
"At Children's, our mission is to make kids better today and healthier tomorrow," said Donna Hyland, President and CEO of Children's. "We believe this concussion bill will play a critical role in helping to protect young athletes throughout Georgia."
The Return-to-Play Act requires both public and private schools to create a concussion policy that includes:
• Providing parents or legal guardians with an information sheet educating them on the risks of concussion prior to the beginning of each athletic season
• Removing a youth athlete from play if he/she shows signs of a concussion
• Requiring a healthcare provider to clear the athlete before he/she can return to play
Additionally, this bill requires public recreational leagues to provide an information sheet to all youth athletes' parents or legal guardians informing them of the risks of concussions.
As part of its role in preventing, diagnosing and treating concussion patients, Children's has numerous resources available to parents and coaches. Along with educational teaching sheets and a toolkit designed to help guide first-response caregivers and parents, Children's also recently launched a new online portal (www.choa.org/concussiontools) equipped with extensive videos detailing how to provide appropriate and effective care to children and teens impacted by concussions.
The online portal guides visitors through various phases of concussion management – from symptom-tracking and diagnosis to treatment and return-to-play guidelines. It also offers useful examples of unique scenarios that may occur for each concussed patient and how best to treat them. Additionally, the portal provides tips for preventing concussions and recommendations for follow-up care. The website features detailed tutorial videos by Children's concussion professionals, as well as additional resources and information to aid concussion management.
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