North Carolina lawmakers recently proposed bill that would add parents to a list of licensed medical professionals allowed to evaluate concussed children; within a day of being publicized, the politicians responded to the backlash by telling concerned citizens that, actually, the controversial portion of the bill was nothing more than the result of a typo.
The details of House Bill 116 are mainly positive, proactive measures aiming to increase student safety and the reporting of sports injuries at North Carolina public schools, but the clause granting parents the power of a physician rightfully gave many a reason for concern yesterday. The backlash caught the attention of Republican representative Greg Murphy, who went on Outside The Lines Tuesday afternoon to inform host Bob Ley that the clause was “inadvertent piece that was not taken off from an earlier version” and that it would be “entirely removed.”
In 2011, North Carolina passed H.B. 792, also known as the Gfeller-Waller Concussion Awareness Act, mandating that any student that has suffered a concussion or exhibits concussion-like behavior must be removed from the competition or practice. Per the bill, the student could not return until they received written permission from a licensed physician, neuropsychologist, athletic trainer, physician assistant, or nurse.
H.B. 116, on the whole, is not an outright evil bill merely aiming to snatch back parents’s rights to concuss their developing offspring like in the good ole days. It introduces the mandatory development and distribution of “guidelines and educational materials” on how to handle sudden cardiac arrest, requiring that either a school’s head coach or athletic director maintain CPR certification. It has a similar section on heat stroke and heat exhaustion—commonplace illnesses in a constantly humid state that regularly hits the 90s during summer and early fall workouts.
The bill’s concussion section introduces the requirement that all athletic participants—coaches, players, volunteers—and parents are to receive a concussions information sheet annually. It even calls for the creation of a state-wide database for logging “catastrophic injuries” and concussions, with each school required to keep track of injuries sustained by their students.
Then, the bill heads for murky waters. H.B. 116 offers a regressive parent policy compared to its predecessor, and grants parents and legal guardians more power regarding their child’s right to play. Essentially, it shoehorns parents onto the list of licensed officials allowed to determine when and whether a concussed child is allowed to return. From the bill:
The student shall not return to play or practice on a subsequent day until the student is evaluated by and receives written clearance for such participation from (i) the student’s parent or legal guardian, (ii) a physician licensed under Article 1 of Chapter 90 of the General Statutes with training in concussion management, (iii) a neuropsychologist licensed under Article 18A of Chapter 90 of the General Statutes with training in concussion management and working in consultation with a physician licensed under Article 1 of Chapter 90 of the General Statutes, (iv) an athletic trainer licensed under Article 34 of Chapter 90 of the General Statutes, (v) a physician assistant, consistent with the limitations of G.S. 90-18.1, or (vi) a nurse practitioner, consistent with the limitations of G.S. 90-18.
This was a bad idea for very obvious reasons—GQ’s “The Concussion Diaries” feature serves as a heartbreaking first-hand example of what happens when the decision to play is left up to coaches, parents, and students. “Tough kids” and parents wanting their children to be “tough kids” on the field are all too common in amateur sports; giving parents the same power as a licensed medical professional when it comes to determining whether a child is ready to return from a traumatic brain injury is getting dangerously close to anti-vaxxer territory.
Fortunately for children attending North Carolina public schools, the authors of this bill noticed this “inadvertent error” while dealing with two days’ worth of bad press. The system works!