The state House is considering legislation meant to teach more youth athletes and their parents, coaches, and officials about brain injuries, but some think the bill goes too far.
A 2011 Missouri law requires public school student athletes in grades seven through 12 be given information on brain injuries. Representative Paul Fitzwater’s (R-Potosi) bill would extend that requirement to sports that charge a participation fee and are organized by municipalities, businesses, or nonprofits.
It would also require that coaches, umpires, referees, and other youth sports officials complete brain injury training on-line or in-person and receive updated training at least once every three years thereafter.
Fitzwater says the 2011 law leaves out a lot of children.
“There are thousands and thousands more who participate in organized sports not affiliated with a school, and or younger than grade seven,” said Fitzwater.
Fitzwater referees youth sports and said he wanted to file the bill based on some of what he’s seen.
“I see these little first, second, and third graders in full-contact football and I have my own opinion about that but I guess they are going to play it, and we need to educate our coaches and officials on how to identify maybe a potential concussion with these youths,” said Fitzwater. “I’ve seen hits in football games when an individual goes to the sideline and he’s dazed, he’s rung his bell, and next thing you know he’s right back in there.”
Some lawmakers think the bill overreaches. Representative Kurt Bahr (R-St. Charles) offered an amendment to limit its proposed requirements to sports played on public school facilities.
“I don’t think it is appropriate for us to be regulating municipalities or nonprofits or other organizations in a chapter of law that is focused solely for public education,” said Bahr.
Representative Kevin Engler wondered whether the bill’s requirements could hurt youth sports.
“You’re going to make baseball coaches, when you can’t get coaches to volunteer now, take a 15-minute course on traumatic head injuries in baseball,” said Engler.
Others including Representative Genise Montecillo (D-St. Louis) agreed with Fitzwater, that Bahr’s amendment would water the bill down.
“This is an amendment that just undermines the intent of the bill,” said Montecillo. “We should be protecting all students’ brains.”
The House on Wednesday halted debate of the bill and the amendment without a vote.