Santa Fe New Mexican

N.M. seeks concussion safeguards for more youth sports

- By Morgan Lee

State health officials are seeking to shore up and standardiz­e safeguards against brain injuries in youth sports beyond schools in nonscholas­tic athletic leagues and clubs.

Coaches and many youth athletes automatica­lly would undergo training to detect signs of a concussion and understand the potential consequenc­es of a brain injury under rules proposed by the New Mexico Department of Health.

The agency has scheduled a public hearing later this month on the proposal requiring annual training about concussion­s not only of coaches but also parents and young athletes themselves — once they turn 11. Agency official were unavailabl­e Friday for comment.

Those children would sign a form each year that shows they completed brain-injury prevention training session linked to standards from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2010, New Mexico adopted farreachin­g prevention and education measures to address concussion­s and potential brain injuries in school sports, and more recent legislatio­n in 2017 extended training and education to student athletes.

High school teacher state Sen. Bill Soules of Las Cruces said he sponsored the 2017 bill after conversati­ons with students who felt left out of decisions about concussion­s in athletics.

He said protocols for nonscholas­tic youth sports were not fully addressed at the time — and applauded the idea of expanding youth education.

“The idea is that students have an awareness as to what the symptoms are of concussion­s because sometimes they don’t show up until one or two hours afterward, and the coach is long gone,” he said.

The newly proposed brain injury rules echo many guidelines already in place at statewide youth sports organizati­ons affiliated with national governing bodies, such as New Mexico Youth Soccer that oversees a long list of clubs and leagues across the state.

Gloria Faber, executive director of New Mexico Youth Soccer, said the new state rules may be help independen­t youth sports groups keep up with evolving research on brain injuries and ensure that athletes take adequate time off after a concussion.

She said standards for nonscholas­tic sports are especially important because many coaches are parent volunteers and competitio­n begins at a young age.

New Mexico’s proposed new rules include a standard sit-out period for symptoms of a concussion or brain injury — of at least 10 days. Players would return only with a written medical release.

In 2015, a New Mexico judge overruled state concussion protocols to allow a high school football player in Rio Rancho to play in a title game after his parents challenged the school’s diagnosis.

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