Student-athlete concussions target of bill

SACRAMENTO No one knows a concussion like the NFL, where big hits win praise and returning to play afterward is lauded.

"I lost my vision in my left eye. It totally blacked out. I'm in the huddle and the guys are asking me, am I OK? Of course I'm OK. I'm fine," said Eric Davis, a former San Francisco 49er football player.

But the National Football League now takes concussions seriously in its own ranks with strict return-to-play rules.

The league hopes youth sports does the same because far too many children are going back in to play too early, risking more serious injury.

Texas, Washington and Oregon already have laws that address concussions in student athletes. The NFL is helping almost a dozen other states, including California, adopt one.

Former players like Davis, Keena Turner and Jim Otto and NFL representatives urged Sacramento to pass a bipartisan proposal requiring kids high-school age or younger to get a note from a doctor and a parent approving the child's return to play.

"This is not just a football issue. It's female soccer players, female volleyball players, boys basketball, boys hockey," said NFL Senior Advisor Joe Browne. "Concussions are a serious issue there too."

It takes the decision away from coaches who may look the other way to win a game, or the kids themselves who don't want to disappoint their team.

Softball player Jenna Fong suffered a concussion and would have kept playing if her coach had let her.

"I definitely didn't want to miss a week of games and practice. But it was for my safety so I can't argue too much," said Fong.

"It's dangerous," said student athlete Michael Tellez. "If you want to get in there and go out and get hurt more, that's your choice. But I think I would get the doctor's note."

Critics say the proposal is too weak. The school, coach or player suffers no consequences if anyone is caught bringing back a student-athlete too soon after a head injury.

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