Former Rams player supports state concussion bill

A former St. Louis Rams player who made a Super Bowl-winning tackle teamed up with medical officials and the National Football League on Tuesday to urge Missouri lawmakers to approve legislation designed to prevent concussions in youth athletes.

Former Rams player Mike Jones said it was important for young athletes and their parents to understand the seriousness of concussions and to keep players who have concussions off the field until they have fully recovered. He said Missouri should establish a consistent statewide policy for handling concussions in youth sports.

“A swollen ankle is totally different from a swollen brain,” Jones said.

Jones, whose tackle at the 1-yard-line preserved the Rams Super Bowl win in 2000, said he doesn’t think he ever had a concussion during his playing days but it was important for rules and policies to keep up as doctors better understand concussions. Jones now is the football coach at Lincoln University in Jefferson City. He said decisions about when his players are ready to play again after a concussion are left to medical personnel and not players or coaches.

The Missouri legislation would require youth athletes to be removed from games or practices if they appear to have concussions or brain injuries. Athletes would need to sit out at least 24 hours and, to return, players would need clearance from a health care provider who has training in evaluating and treating concussions.

It also seeks to get a group that includes the state Department of Health and Senior Services, school boards and the high school sports association to develop guidelines and information to give to coaches, athletes and parents about the risks of concussions and brain injuries. Young athletes and their parents would be required to sign an annual form with information about concussions and brain injuries.

Over the past couple of years, lawmakers in numerous states have considered legislation focused on concussions in youth supports. Advocates say at least 10 states, including Massachusetts, Oregon, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia have approved youth concussion legislation. Many of the measures have been modeled after a Washington state law named after teenager Zackery Lystedt, who suffered a debilitating brain injury in 2006 when he returned to a football game shortly after suffering a concussion.

The National Football League is supporting similar concussion bills in state capitals across the country and backing federal legislation.

Kenneth Edmonds, an NFL official, said Tuesday during a Missouri Senate committee hearing that the state’s concussion legislation would improve sports by making them safer. He said the league recognizes the risks of concussions in youth sports and hoped that professional football’s policies for returning from concussions could work as a model.

“We might not be able to prevent the first concussion, but we can prevent a subsequent concussion,” Edmonds said. “And it’s those subsequent concussions that are more dangerous.”

Concussions in young athletes generally take longer to heal than in adults. Teens or children who return to competition while still recovering from a concussion risk an even greater second injury, which can lead to serious disability or death.

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