HARRISBURG -- The state House went long with a pass Wednesday that advanced a bill to protect student athletes.
With a unanimous vote, the Safety in Youth Sports Act moved out of the backfield and toward the governor's desk. The legislation aims to protect athletes from devastating effects of ill-managed concussions.
It now heads to the Senate, which returns to session Oct. 17. If the bill passes there, as expected, Gov. Tom Corbett says he intends to sign it into law.
Under the legislation, student athletes who show symptoms of a concussion must be removed from play until they are cleared by a medical professional.
It also requires coaches to complete concussion certification courses and mandates that parents and guardians annually read and sign documents providing information about concussions and head injuries.
Thirty other states already have similar laws.
"The Safety in Youth Sports Act will help protect the commonwealth's richest resource: our children's minds," said Rep. Tim Briggs, D-Montgomery, who shepherded the bill through the House.
The bill was sponsored by Sen. Pat Browne, R-Lehigh. Another version of the bill already passed that chamber, but the legislation must be reconsidered there because the House amended it to change its effective date to July 1, 2012.
"It's a huge step forward," said Joseph Maroon, a neurosurgeon at the University of Pittsburgh and team physician for the Pittsburgh Steelers. "It's critical that parents, coaches, players and trainers be fully appraised of the potential risks and consequences of cerebral concussions and their potential long-term consequences."
Dr. Maroon said he has treated many high school, college and professional athletes who suffered long-term problems such as memory loss, insomnia and personality changes after returning to the playing field too soon after an injury.
He said the legislation is a first step. The next step, he said, would be to require baseline testing for student athletes. Those tests could help evaluate problems later if a head injury occurs.
Tracie Mauriello: firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-787-2141.