Should parents of athletes be allowed to play doctor?


North Carolina could pass a law that would let parents send their concussed children back into sporting events. 

The story:

The House of Representatives in North Carolina will consider legislation that would allow a parent or healthcare provider to clear a student-athlete to return a game after potentially suffering a concussion. Kelly Byrne of WNCT in Greenville, North Carolina, reported Feb. 20 that House Bill 116 would also stipulate anybody who takes part in school athletic activities completes training regarding concussions, cardiac arrest and heat-related illnesses.

Opposition to the law:

“Probably the scariest thing we deal with is dehydration, heat illnesses,” Ron Butler, athletic director for Pitt County (N.C.) schools, said to WNCT. However, Katie Flanagan, director of athletic training at East Carolina University, told the station that the bill “gives the parents a determination that their child is fine and can return to play with a concussion.” “I’ll preface by saying I’m not a parent, but I don’t believe HB 116 is in the best interest of the athletes,” Flanagan told She also pointed out that, in Gfeller-Waller, North Carolina already “has a very robust concussion law.”

Evan Grossman from NY Daily News:

Introduced in mid-February and sponsored by four Republican state representatives, one of which is Dr. Greg Murphy, HB 116 stipulates parents will be issued a “concussion or head injury information sheet,” as if a piece of paper will be enough for them to properly gauge if their child is healthy enough to return to action. Why don’t we start passing out scalpels and allowing parents to perform surgeries then? The idea of a parent or guardian having the authority to make medical decisions instead of a doctor is preposterous, dangerous and could ultimately prove deadly.

The NFL:

“We have been active proponents the last seven years of country-wide concussion protection laws modeled after the Lystedt law which was first adopted in the state of Washington,” Jeff Miller, the NFL’s executive vice president of health and safety policy said, referring to legislation named after Zack Lystedt, who suffered a debilitating brain injury in 2006. “Among the components of the law that is designed to protect young athletes is that a qualified licensed healthcare professional must clear the athlete to return to practice. Only this medical professional who is trained to diagnose and evaluate concussions should provide that clearance.”

The existing law:

A North Carolina law passed in 2011, called the Gfeller-Waller Concussion Awareness Act, included a passage regarding students “participating in an interscholastic athletic activity” who exhibited “signs or symptoms consistent with concussion.” Those students were to be “removed from the activity at that time” and not “allowed to return to play or practice” until they received “written clearance” from a licensed physician, neuropsychologist or athletic trainer, or a physician assistant or nurse practitioner.

High School vs College:

According to an Indianapolis study of young football players from 2012-14, high school football players are more likely to need more recovery time from a concussion than those in college. However, younger players are also more likely to get back on the field sooner. This is in part due to the difficulty in identifying and expressing their symptoms to parents or coaches.

What do you think? Should it pass?

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