SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - The first bill to be signed into law this legislative session is geared towards protecting student athletes who sustain head injuries during school activities. The "Return to Play" bill was voted unanimously through the state Senate on Thursday and will be signed into law by Governor Bryant next week. Mississippi is the last state to sign this legislation into law.
The law has drawn strong support from interest groups such as the Mississippi State Medical Association, Brain Injury Association of Mississippi and the Athletic Trainers Association.
"It is certainly reassuring to know as a physician and as a neurologist, that extra precautions have been mandated by law to protect our young athletes," said Dr. Lee Voulters, who is Chair of the MSMA Board of Trustees.
"Concussions are a serious issue and it is gratifying to see Mississippi finally recognize the need for legislation such as this as the rest of the country has."
This legislation comes on the heels of recent revelations about the dangers of concussions, especially in high contact sports such as football. Experts have linked concussions to side effects later in life that include confusion, memory loss and depression. The National Football League is currently tied up in court over a $765 million concussion lawsuit brought on by 20,000 former players.
The new bill provides certain protocols that must be followed if an athlete is suspected of sustaining a brain injury and will also sponsor educational sessions for coaches and trainers to identify the symptoms of concussions.
Lawmakers say this law will remove athletes from play if they sustain a head injury, and they will not be able to return to play until being thoroughly inspected and cleared by a trained medical professional. Experts say the initial concussion is almost impossible to prevent, but further damage can be avoided if the brain is given proper time to heal from the trauma.
"MSMA has taken a lead on this issue because we understand, as physicians, how brain injuries can be life-altering, and even life-threatening," said MSMA President Dr. James Rish.
"Kids are getting hurt out there, especially in sports like football or soccer. It was past time for Mississippi to join all other 49 states in passing legislation to protect our kids involved in youth sports."