New safety requirements put in place to keep athletes with concussions on sidelines

Coaching and supervising youth sports will be much different now that a statewide law aimed to protect young athletes from head injuries is in effect.

Any public or private school, club or recreation facility that sponsors youth athletic activities from ages 11 to 19 in Colorado will have to know how to recognize if an athlete could have a head injury.

Each coach or supervisor of a youth athletic activity is required to annually complete a concussion recognition education course. A Senate bill requiring coaches to complete the course was passed last summer.

The Jake Snakenberger Youth Concussion Act, named after a 15-year-old Aurora high school football player who died from a head injury with concussion symptoms, took effect Jan. 1.

Snakenberger died from a head injury in September 2004, one a day after he took a helmet-to-helmet hit. One week earlier he took a hit and reportedly felt a tingling sensation.

Mesa County School District 51 had the Jake Snakenberger Youth Concussion Act in place prior to the 2011-12 school year.

Football and soccer players were all required to take a cognitive test before they could practice. Basketball players were also required to be tested, and this spring, baseball players will be tested.

If a student-athlete shows signs of a concussion, the coaches must remove the athlete from the game, competition or practice and notify the athlete’s parent or legal guardian and cannot permit the athlete to return to play in any supervised team activity until he or she is evaluated by a health care provider and receives written clearance to return to play from the health care provider.

The city of Grand Junction Parks & Recreation Department started implementing the course for its coaches, usually parent volunteers, this past summer, recreation superintendent Traci Wieland said.

“We will have all our youth athletes and coaches trained on it,” Wieland said. “We’ll have training with our staff members and branch out to our adult sports, too.”

Youth participants, including those in the city’s basketball, flag football and volleyball programs, will take the Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Test (ImPACT). It is the same test District 51 uses for its student-athletes.

The concussion training is also mandatory for club sports teams, including leagues such as the Mesa County Junior Football Association, Grand Junction Soccer Association, Grand Valley Youth Hockey Association and Little Leagues.


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