California athletes in youth sports from high school football to children's soccer or basketball could be affected by new legislation proposed to prevent early return to competition after a major head injury.
The measure unveiled Tuesday is part of a nationwide push to take decisions out of the hands of coaches and players about when to allow minors to return to a game after sustaining a head injury.
"Not all head injuries can be prevented, but we can prevent greater harm by knowing when it is safe to return to the game," said Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, a Castro Valley Democrat who is pushing the legislation, Assembly Bill 25.
Concussions stem from the brain's soft tissue slamming into the wall of the skull - most often from a sudden blow to the head or body. The trauma impairs brain function, and symptoms can range from grogginess to headache to unconsciousness.
AB 25 would expand upon a new bylaw by the California Interscholastic Federation requiring high school athletes who suffer a concussion to be removed from the game immediately and to be cleared by a medical professional before returning.
Hayashi's bill would make the CIF's high school requirement a state law. It also would require parents or guardians of athletes to receive and sign a fact sheet about concussions and head injuries before practices, games or meets begin each year. Athletes of both sexes would be affected, regardless of the sport.
The most wide-ranging aspect of AB 25, however, is that it would extend the requirements to junior high schools, elementary schools, and youth sports of all types by requiring compliance by nonprofit groups that use school or other public facilities or grounds.
AB 25 does not require schools or leagues to foot the bill for a player's evaluation by a medical professional after a head injury, so families or their insurance providers would be responsible for any costs incurred.
The legislation would not apply to college teams, private schools, adult leagues, or to youth leagues that use private facilities -- such as a church field or gymnasium.
Hayashi introduced AB 25 at a Capitol news conference that included former Oakland Raiders Fred Biletnikoff, Jim Otto and Morris Bradshaw, former San Francisco 49ers Keena Turner and Eric Davis, and officials of the National Football League, CIF, California Athletic Trainers Association and California Brain Injury Association.
Sen. Tony Strickland, a Moorpark Republican who is teaming with Hayashi on the bill, said that athletes have a natural tendency to downplay injuries. He once injured his wrist in a basketball game and begged his coach to let him keep playing, to no avail, Strickland said. He later learned the wrist was shattered.
"Every competitor, girl or boy ... they're always going to put the team first in that they always want to play," Strickland said.
More than 3 million sports- and recreation-related concussions occur nationwide each year, according to a fact sheet released by Hayashi's office.
Legislative debate on AB 25 and other bills will not begin until lawmakers reconvene in January.
PHOTO CREDIT: Former Oakland Raiders Jim Otto speaks about Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi's Assembly Bill 25. Paul Kitagaki Jr./The Sacramento Bee