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By on February 21, 2014
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Pascrell, Menendez to Help Protect Student-Athletes from Head Injuries

(EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.) – As Super Bowl Week recently kicked off in New Jersey, U.S. Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. and U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (both D-NJ) proudly accepted the National Football League’s public endorsement of legislation they’ve introduced to help protect student-athletes from the dangers of sports-related concussions.

In photo above: Congressman Pascrell at podium, while Senator Menendez looks on (left of Pascrell).

“I’ve made the protection of our athletes from the devastating effects of sports-related concussions a priority because they deserve the safest environment possible in which to compete,” said Rep. Pascrell, Co-founder and Co-chair of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force. “By providing additional resources to schools and coaches and creating new federal safety guidelines,  this legislation will move us one step closer to ensuring the safety of our youngest athletes on the playing field.”

“The NFL deserves credit for efforts to improve player safety in its game and beyond, but there is still much that needs to be done for our younger athletes,” said Sen. Menendez. “That is why I have pushed for national safety standards in youth sports, as well as federal funding to ensure that every child who takes the field is properly protected and that their parents have peace of mind.”

The Concussion Treatment and Care Tools (ConTACT) Act authorizes a five-year grant program for $5 million for the first year and such sums as necessary for the remaining four years.  Grants will be awarded to states to provide professional development for athletic trainers and coaches and ensure schools have adequate medical staff coverage to implement best practices in concussion diagnosis, treatment, and management.  Grant guidelines will be based off recommendations from the CDC’s Pediatric Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Expert Panel.

“The NFL is proud to support the ConTACT Act,” announced Adolpho Birch, the league’s Senior Vice President of Labor Policy and Government Affairs. “We commend Senator Menendez and Congressman Pascrell for their efforts to further our shared goal of ensuring the health and safety of athletes at all levels of sport.”

According to the CDC, each year, U.S. emergency departments (EDs) treat an estimated 173,285 sports- and recreation-related mild Traumatic Brain Injuries (mTBIs), including concussions among children and adolescents from birth to 19 years.   Many of these mTBIs are suffered by middle and high school students participating in athletics, but many schools do not have the resources to adequately diagnose and treat these injuries.  As a result, studies have shown that as many as 41 percent of high school athletes return to the field before their brain has an opportunity to heal from a previous concussion.

The consequences of returning to activity too soon cannot be overstated.  A repeat concussion — one that occurs before the brain recovers from a previous concussion — can not only slow recovery, it also increases the likelihood of having long-term problems.  Repeat concussions can result in second impact syndrome, which can be marked by brain swelling, permanent brain damage, and even death.

Sen. Menendez and Rep. Pascrell were both primary sponsors of the ConTACT Act in the Senate and House, respectively, following the tragic death of Montclair High School football player Ryne Dougherty in October 2008. The original legislation, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives in September 2010, provided for national protocols to be established for managing sports-related concussions for student athletes from the fifth grade to the 12th grade.  In response to Sen. Menendez’s and Rep. Pascrell’s request in February 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notified the lawmakers that it would convene the Pediatric Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Expert Panel, which will establish the national protocols.

The guidelines and recommendations are expected to be finalized in 2015.

Office of Congressman Pascrell