Student-athlete safety bill would let parents approve return to game

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Each year, there are more than 1.5 million sports-related concussions and thousands of heat-related illnesses in the United States.

House Bill 116 is shedding light on student safety in athletics and hopes to give parents, coaches and students education that could potentially save lives.

“The more times parents can hear that things might be dangerous, and there’s a way to prevent them, those are critical,” said Katie Flanagan, director of Athletic Training at East Carolina University.

House Bill 116 would require education to those involved in school athletic activities on concussions, sudden cardiac arrest and heat-related illnesses.

“Probably the scariest thing we deal with is dehydration, heat illnesses,” said Ron Butler, athletic director for Pitt County Schools.

Republican Rep. Greg Murphy of Pitt County is sponsoring the bill.

He said, “given the severity and lethality of cardiac arrest and heat-related illness during our school’s athletic activities, I feel it imperative that legislature look for any possible opportunity to help educate those involved in how to prevent or recognize these events when they happen.”

Flanagan said while more education about student-athlete safety is imperative, the bill changes a key component of the Gfeller Waller Act, which is already in place.

“It gives the parents a determination that their child is fine and can return to play with a concussion,” said Flanagan.

Currently, a student athlete suspected of having a concussion cannot return to play until the student is evaluated and cleared by a healthcare provider.

House Bill 116 would allow a student-athlete to return after receiving clearance from a parent or healthcare provider, which is raising some concerns.

House Bill 116 would also implement a database to report catastrophic illnesses, injuries and concussions during athletic activities; something athletic trainers say is needed.

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