CONCORD, N.H. — A new law aimed at protecting student athletes from concussions and other head injuries is taking effect in New Hampshire just as players begin gearing up for the fall season.
Driving from Haverhill to Concord for Monday’s bill signing ceremony, Republican Rep. Rick Ladd said he passed young soccer players in front yards, and knows football practice also is under way.
“I feel very thankful that my grandchildren, who are involved (in sports) will be playing with this statute in place,” he said.
Under the new law, coaches and other athletic officials who suspect that an athlete has sustained a concussion will be required to remove him or her from play immediately, and the athlete will have to get written authorization from a health care provider and a parent before returning. Information about such injuries also will be distributed to all youth athletes each year, and parents will have to sign forms indicating they had read the information before the start of practice or competition.
Concussions are caused by a blow that forces the head to move violently. They can affect memory, judgment, reflexes, speech, balance and muscle coordination. The symptoms become worse if not properly treated, and young people are more susceptible to long-term repercussions than adults.
“We hope to reduce the risk to the student athlete both from further injury on the field, but also from damage in the classroom,” said Sen. Matthew Houde, D-Plainfield, the bill’s main sponsor.
Lauren Caruso, who has not been able to return to school fulltime since sustaining a concussion three years ago, said she hopes the new law is just the beginning. Caruso, who was injured during lacrosse practice at Timberlane Regional High School, said she hopes the new rules eventually will be extended to younger children and those involved in community recreation leagues.
According to the National Football League, which has been advocating for such legislation, 38 states had passed similar laws as of May.
A Center for Disease Control and Prevention study released in October found that the number of children athletes going to hospitals with concussions rose 60 percent in the past decade, a finding likely due to parents and coaches being more careful about treating head injuries.