Wednesday, February 23, 2011
It was a victory Wednesday for those who say the state needs to do more to protect student athletes, as the state senate passed a bill that highlights the dangers of concussions.
The bill aims to prevent what's called "second impact syndrome," which is when someone suffers a head injury, doesn't fully recover, then suffers another one. For student athletes, it has proved to be deadly.
The Wichita Heights High School wrestling team is one of the best in the state. But for the athletes and the coaches there is one thing more important than winning, and that's safety, especially after an injury.
"They tell us just to relax and rest for as much time as we need, and to just come back basically when you're ready and feeling healthy," said Heights wrestler Daniel Deshazer.
Just as coaches teach the Heights students when to compete, they also teach them when to stop, specifically after signs of a concussion.
"Basically dizzy, seeing spots, stuff like that, slight headache," said Heights wrestler Matt Reed.
If any of the athletes have those symptoms, they'll have to complete a form for them to compete again. The form requires clearance from a doctor. Right now, that requirement comes from Wichita Public Schools policy, but soon it may become law for all Kansas schools.
"We really felt like it was a serious enough injury that it needs to be legislative to protect our kids," said the Kansas Athletic Trainers Society Executive Director Travis Francis, who helped draft the bill.
Supporters hope the bill will prevent the fate of students like Nathan Stiles. Stiles is the high school senior who died in northeast Kansas last year after returning to the field the same month he suffered a concussion.
Stiles' parents told legislators the bill may have saved their son, so the legislation comes in part as a response to tragedies like his.
"Unfortunately I think it was death... people dying from having a concussion and going back too early," said Francis.
The Kansas State High School Activities Association does already have a similar policy in place, but not all Kansas schools are members of that association.
The bill still has to pass through the House of Representatives and get the Governor's signature before it becomes law.