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"We've ignored it for so long and now the baby boomer generation of athletes are coming to middle age and older adulthood and we're seeing the effects that the bodily abuse has had on them over the years," said Missouri Rep. Don Calloway, who filed legislation in his state. "You wonder what we could have done as a society or as leagues or just as citizens to perhaps have prevented some of that stuff."
Even these new laws can't prevent every tragedy. Colbrese said a high school football player in Washington died after a concussion this past fall -- he had been medically cleared to play.
Micky Collins, assistant director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Sports Medicine Concussion Program, says the measures being considered are a big step forward, but that even some medical personnel have a lot to learn about how to evaluate head injuries.
"In a perfect world, we would have an athletic trainer in every school where there's contact sports," said Collins, who also is the co-founder of ImPACT Applications, which developed a computer-based program to help measure the severity of a concussion.
The program tests, among other things, a person's memory, and the results can be compared to a baseline to show whether an athlete is ready to return to competition -- or even how much an injured student should try to take on academically.
"That's the only objective data point" within a subjective evaluation process, Collins said. He says computer-based testing is used by many colleges and in multiple pro leagues, and that it's common in high schools in some states.
In New Jersey, around 140 schools use the ImPACT program, which limits how much schools must rely on answers from an athlete who might play down the effects of an injury so he or she can return to the game.
The new proposals working their way through statehouses also would place greater responsibility on coaches and medical personnel to make the final determination on whether an athlete plays -- and they're supposed to err on the side of caution.
"Once it's a law, it becomes, I think, the next level," said Briggs, the Pennsylvania legislator. "You'll want coaches and parents and athletic trainers to take this seriously. There might be a lot of pressure on a kid to brush it off and ignore the symptoms."
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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