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Youth Sports Concussion Safety Laws: Pennsylvania


Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed the "Safety in Youth Sports Act" into law on November 9, 2011. The law becomes effective on July  1, 2012.  The Keystone State became the 31st state to pass a strong youth sports concussion safety law. 

Key provisions

  • Broad coverage: The law covers all athletes participating in:
    • interscholastic athletics at public schools
    • athletic competitions other than interscholastic athletics that are sponsored by or associated with a public school, including
      • competitive cheer
      • non-competitive cheer
      • club-sponsored sports activities and sports activities
    • practices, interschool practices and scrimmages. 
  •  Education and training:
    • The Pennsylvania Departments of Public Health and Education must develop and post on their websites guidelines and other relevant materials to inform and educate students, parents, and coaches about concussions, the nature and risk of concussion and traumatic brain injury (TBI), including the risks of continuing to play or practice after a concussion or TBI. using materials developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
    • In order to participate in athletics, students and a parent or guardian must sign and return to the student's school each year a form acknowledging receipt and review of a concussion and traumatic brain injury information sheet.
    • Coaches must complete annually the concussion management certification training course offered by the CDC, the National Federation of State High School Associations, or another provider approved by the Department of Health, and is not allowed to coach until he or she has completed such training.
  • Immediate removal from play in case of suspected concussion: Athletes who is determined by a game official, coach, certified athletic trainer, licensed physician, licensed physical therapist or other designated official to be exhibiting signs or symptoms of concussion or TBI must be immediately removed from play by the coach.
  • No return to play without written medical clearance: Athletes who have been removed may not return to play until evaluated and received written clearance from either a: 
    • licensed physician who is trained in the evaluation and management of concussions or a licensed health care professional with such training designated by such physician; or
    • a licensed neuropsychologist trained in the evaluation and management of concussions or who has postdoctoral training in neuropsychology and specific training in the evaluation and management of concussions.  [Note: unlike some other states, and an earlier version of the bill, certified athletic trainers, while they may remove a player from play, may not give the medical clearance required for return to play.] 
  • Pre-season concussion informational meetings optional.  A school may hold an informational meeting prior to the start of each athletic season for all ages of competitors regarding concussions and other head injuries, the importance of proper concussion management and how pre-season baseline assessments can aid in the evaluation, management and recovery process. 
  • Penalties.  The governing body of a public school must establish the following minimum penalties for a coach failing to remove a player with signs or symptoms of concussion from play or allowing a player to return to play without medical clearance: 
    • 1st violation: suspension for remainder of season;
    • 2nd violation: suspension for remainder of season and next season; and
    • 3rd violation: permanent suspension from coaching. (Note: The only other state with a penalty provision for violations is Connecticut, which allows the State Board of Education to revoke the coaching permit of a coach found to be in violation of its law)
  • Immunity: Existing law on civil liability on the part of any school or employee is left unchanged except that any coach who removes a player with a suspected concussion from play and obtains written clearance for a return to play will be immune from civil liability.

Taking concussions seriously

In a ceremonial signing on November 14, 2011 at Lower Dauphin High School, Governor Corbett said that "Some will call this erring on the side of caution.  To that I say, 'you bet.' When it has to do with our young people, with their health and safety, we should take no needless chances."  "It's time to take concussions seriously, before they ruin young lives," Corbett said.  "Our hope is that this bill will reduce the risk of long-term damage for student athletes who suffer concussions or other brain-related trauma while participating in sports."

Source: Pennsylvania Office of the Governor

Posted November 14, 2011, updated August 23, 2014