Governor Mary Fallin signed Senate Bill 1164 into law on Monday, ensuring another layer of protection for Oklahoma’s young athletes.
Oklahoma became one of the first states to enact concussion legislation back in 2010, but was one of the last states to update its original law.
Lauren Long, co-founder of Oklahoma City-based Concussion Connection, has spearheaded the new law along with numerous members of the Oklahoma Athletic Trainers Association.
“It was a journey that started three years ago when I approached Jeff McKibbin (director of the athletic training program at the University of Central Oklahoma) on how we can make 2010’s law stronger,” Long posted on her Facebook page. “That journey led to the introduction and ultimate defeat of SB 1790 in 2014. Though defeated, we pressed onward.
“After years of fighting for change, it’s been an absolute honor of working alongside so many great people that I am able to stand here and say, we finally did it!! I can’t thank these people enough for doing all they have done and helping making this fight so worth it.”
The new law ensures that secondary school-age athletes who exhibit symptoms or signs of a concussion are:
1, immediately removed from play,
2, not allowed to return to competition until evaluated and authorized in writing by a health care professional,
3, if diagnosed with a concussion, prescribed a graduated, stepwise return-to-play protocol,
4, if diagnosed with a concussion, prescribed a similarly graduated return-to-learn protocol to ease young athletes back into academic work.
SB1164 includes additional educational requirements for coaches, game officials and school officials, and mandates that those individuals remove from play an athlete who exhibits concussion symptoms.
The State Department of Health must create a concussion management section on its website to provide necessary guidelines for individual school districts and youth sports organizations (including recreational leagues and church leagues) to develop their own policies, and it mandates that those schools and organizations do so.
SB1164 also adds penalties for coaches, game officials and/or administrators for ignoring the law. They’ll get additional concussion recognition and management education after the first offense, and a suspension from the sport (until appearing before his or her respective governing board) after subsequent offenses.
“We thought we pretty much covered everything with the back-to-school protocol (and) getting a release to be returned to play,” State Rep. Dan Kirby (R-Broken Arrow), the bill’s co-author, told The Franchise. “We didn’t put any monetary punishment in there, but if a coach continues to return a player deemed to have some type of potential head injury back into play, then eventually (that coach) can be removed.