NC lawmakers to change controversial concussion protocol bill


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – North Carolina lawmakers plan on revising a controversial bill that addresses concussion protocol for student athletes.

When it was filed, House Bill 116 allowed a parent to give their student-athlete clearance to return to play following a concussion. It contradicted the current state law, which says only a healthcare provider can allow a student-athlete to return to play after it’s believed the student-athlete suffers a concussion.

The provision allowing a parent to clear their student-athlete to return to play has raised concern with those in the medical community.

“With the parents, there’s that conflict of interest,” said Dr. Chad Greer with Raleigh Orthopaedic. “There are some parents who are going to be strictly by the books but then there are other parents who are going to feel the tug from their athletes saying, ‘Hey I really wanna play Friday night, can I skip steps 3 and 4 of the concussion protocol because otherwise I’m not going to be done on time?’ And so maybe they’ll fudge it a little bit and maybe that athlete gets back to play too soon.”

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However, Rep. Greg Murphy (R-Pitt), one of the bill’s sponsors, says it was never his intention for the bill to include that provision and it will be removed.

“Parents should not be the ones to give neurologic clearance for a child to return to athletic activity,” said Murphy, who is also a doctor.

Murphy says the purpose of the bill is to require student athletes to be educated on concussions and other health-related issues, such as sudden cardiac arrest and heat-related illnesses.

“I think the educational component will be a very good point to let folks know the dangers of these issues so that people can recognize the dangers and, if God forbid if they were to occur, help address them,” said Murphy.

RELATED: Not all concussion monitors work effectively, researchers say

The education piece is something those who specialize in concussion research fully support.

“If an athlete really knows the symptoms and what could happen to them if they’re not totally honest, that makes the evaluation so much more accurate,” said Dr. Tracy Ray, a sports medicine physician with Duke Health.

House Bill 116 would also establish a database to track catastrophic injuries of student athletes. The bill is currently in committee and has not been introduced on the House or Senate floor yet.

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