By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell, in the midst of Super Bowl preparation, called Mississippi politicians to lobby for legislation.
Goodell phoned Gov. Phil Bryant, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and Speaker Philip Gunn to voice support for a bill establishing a protocol to follow to treat middle school and high school students suspected of suffering a concussion during a school-related extracurricular activity.
On Thursday, the state Senate passed the legislation without a dissenting vote. It becomes one of the first bills sent to the governor during the 2014 session, which is in its third week.
While the bill passedunanimously, some members did express frustration that it did not go far enough.
In recent years, the Senate has passed legislation that required youth sports, such as those sponsored by local parks and recreation departments, to be included in the concussion protocol.
Sen. Terry Burton, R-Newton, said he would prefer to include park and rec leagues and other youth associations, but there were concerns in the House because those activities “involve volunteer coaches. They are afraid rec leagues would lose coaches.”
Sen. Michael Watson, R-Pascagoula, said it would not be too much of a burden on youth coaches to require them to watch a short video on concussions as part of their certification process.
“It is not a perfect bill,” Burton conceded. “But right now it is important we get something on the books. This is what we know we can pass.”
Burton said he hopes the legislation can be strengthened in future sessions.
Mississippi is the only state that does not have a law establishing a protocol for dealing with children suspected of having a concussion.
The bill would require a participant who suffered a head injury to be OK’d by a health care provider, preferably one with expertise in concussion-related injuries, before participating in the event again.
The bill covers various extracurricular activities for both public and private schools.
The proposal was supported by the Mississippi Medical Association, and the Mississippi High School Activities Association.
The MMA, which represents many of the state’s physicians, says research indicates that youth and teens are more susceptible to concussions.
Establishing a protocol to deal with concussions has been a priority for the National Football League in recent years as it has dealt with lawsuits from former players who say their lives have been negatively affected by concussions they suffered while playing in the NFL.