Bill would tighten rules on student athletes suffering concussions

Public school coaches would be required to have the written consent of a physician before they could let a student athlete diagnosed with a concussion play or practice under a bill headed to the full state Senate.

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Kentucky, student athletes suspected of having a concussion must be removed from play immediately.

House Bill 241, approved by the Senate Education Committee Thursday, says that without the written consent, a coach cannot return a student athlete to play if the physician or licensed health care provider determines that a concussion has occurred.

It also says that if no physician or licensed health care provider is present at a practice or game to perform the required evaluation, a coach can’t return a student athlete to play who is suspected of having a concussion. The student athlete won’t be allowed to participate in any subsequent practice or athletic competition unless written clearance from a physician is provided.

Sponsored by Rep. John Sims Jr., D-Flemingsburg, HB 241 needs the approval of the full Senate, which goes back into session Tuesday.

The legislation does two things, Kentucky High School Athletic Association Commissioner Julian Tackett told the Herald-Leader.

First, it takes a KHSAA policy and codifies it into state law. “This is an important step to help ensure the protection of students,” he said.

“In addition, it removes any ambiguity in the responsibility of a coach that someone could read into the current law that was adopted a few years back,” Tackett said.

The evaluation must be completed by a physician or a licensed health care provider whose scope of practice includes the evaluation and management of concussions and other brain injuries.

While HB 241 and the current law share similar language, said Chad Collins, general counsel for the KHSAA, the legislation presents an “opportunity to continue to protect the kids.”

Sims said that concerns over professional athletes sustaining concussions are trickling down to the high school and middle school level.

Bible literacy course

In other action, the committee approved and sent to the full Senate House Bill 128, which would allow the Kentucky Board of Education to create regulations giving schools statewide the option of offering social studies elective Bible literacy courses.

The course would be on the Hebrew Scriptures, Old Testament of the Bible, the New Testament, or a combination of the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament of the Bible, the legislation said.

“The Bible is an ancient document that even today shapes the world around us. It’s influenced not only American culture but cultures and histories throughout the world,” said the sponsor, Rep. D.J. Johnson, R-Owensboro.

The course would teach students knowledge of biblical content, characters, poetry, and narratives key to “understanding contemporary society and culture” including literature, art, music, and public policy.

The course has to follow all federal and state guidelines in maintaining religious neutrality and accommodating the diverse religious views, traditions and perspectives of students in the school. The course can’t endorse, disfavor or show hostility toward, any particular religion or nonreligious faith or religious perspective.

Sen. Reggie Thomas, D-Lexington, said during the committee meeting that he goes to Methodist church every Sunday, but he wondered if it would not be better to teach the Bible to students at church and to move toward a broader course on other world religions for public schools. Some other lawmakers on the committee agreed that they also wanted a broader religion course developed. However, Thomas and all other panel members gave HB 128 a unanimous vote.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears