Student Athletes Get New State Protection

More than 700 new laws go into effect today in Texas — including one that takes aim at one of the state's favorite pastimes — high school sports. A new law requires high school athletes who show signs of a concussion after a collision or hit must be pulled out of the game.

The new law applies to any high school sport, but for obvious reasons, the football field will be where the rule sees the most action.

Dr. Summer Ott is a neuropsychologist and director of the Methodist Hospital Concussion Center. She served on the state task force that helped draft the law.

"Athletes with suspected concussions whose symptoms cleared up fairly quickly, within a matter of minutes, or as the game proceeded the symptoms resolved, were put back in to play. And many of those athletes we believe are vulnerable to second injury or worse outcome after going back in and having further collisions. So the bill affords athletes to be removed from play immediately is suspected of a concussion."

In addition to being removed from the game, the athlete must be examined by a doctor before playing again.

Gene Egdorf heads up the sports law department at the Lanier Law Firm here in Houston. He says the bill is important because students themselves are often the ones who don't realize how seriously they've been injured.

"You can imagine student athletes who are of course also the ones who always say there's nothing wrong with them. 'I'm ready to go back in the game, Coach,' you know that's the kind of players you generally want to have as well. But at the end of the day I think an abundance of caution is always the safe approach."

The bill, called "Natasha's Law," also requires education for coaches about the signs and dangers of concussions. Natasha Helmick was a high school soccer player who lobbied for the law after suffering multiple concussions on the field.

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Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...