99thGALogo webSPRINGFIELD — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) and Sen. Dan Kotowski (D-Park Ridge) hailed the governor’s decision to sign tough new youth concussion legislation today as a major step forward for student health, on and off the field.

“As a parent of two children who have suffered concussions recently, I understand that brains take time to heal,” said Raoul, the measure’s sponsor. “With this law in place, parents can feel more confident that their young student athletes will be given the time and accommodations needed to fully recover from a concussion.”

“Concussions can have a serious impact on a student’s performance on the field and in the classroom,” said Kotowski, the legislation’s co-sponsor. “These new guidelines protect students from the potential long-term effects a concussion can have if it is not treated properly. I commend Sen. Raoul for his leadership on this issue, and look forward to working with him as we learn more about the side effects of concussions.”

When the General Assembly first considered Senate Bill 7, Tregg Duerson testified about his father, Dave Duerson, whose professional football career spanned eleven seasons and included a Super Bowl win with the legendary 1985 Chicago Bears. After retiring from the NFL, the elder Duerson began experiencing headaches, dizzy spells, memory loss, depression and flashes of anger and irritability. He believed he was suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a brain disease brought on by repeated blows to the head, and before taking his life in 2011, he asked his family to donate his brain to Boston University researchers who could test for CTE. The autopsy confirmed his self-diagnosis, and at least 20 other deceased professional football players have been found to have suffered from the disease.

“It gives me great satisfaction that Illinois has taken this major step toward preventing brain injuries like the one that destroyed my father’s life,” the younger Duerson said. “My father’s story and the stories of many professional athletes who played at time when concussions were poorly managed have increased awareness of brain health in sports and are ushering in a new era where athletes at every level receive better care.”

“It is extremely important for a young person who has suffered a concussion not only to make a gradual transition back into physical activity but also to gradually transition back to full participation school and cognitive activities such as reading, doing homework, taking tests or using electronic devices,” said Dr. Cynthia LaBella, medical director of the Institute of Sports Medicine at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital and an expert in pediatric concussions. “Illinois students are better protected now that state law recognizes the need for both athletic and academic accommodations.”

The new law expands current requirements so that all children participating in school-sponsored athletic activities are protected – at the elementary, middle and high school levels and at public, private and charter schools. These requirements include having emergency plans in place to deal with severe injuries that arise during sporting events, designating a “concussion oversight team” of health care professionals to develop and implement concussion policies and following Illinois High School Association protocols for taking student athletes out of a practice or game and allowing them to return after a concussion. The IHSA supports the new approach.

For the first time, the measure also requires schools to have “return-to-learn” policies in place so students who have suffered concussions – at a school-sponsored athletic event or anywhere else — can ease back into classroom attendance and academic work.

The new law takes effect immediately, in time for the start of the 2015-16 school year.

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