Concerned with the growing body of research emphasizing the danger of head injuries on developing young people, the California legislature passed A.B. 2127. This new bill protects all student-athletes, but particularly highlights the possible dangers faced by high school football players as research continues to emerge pointing to long-term health effects of repeated head trauma.
The bill adds section 35179.5 to the Education Code, which states that schools, including private schools, that offer an athletic program, must comply with the following rules: (1) a high school or middle school football team shall not conduct more than two full-contact practices per week during the preseason and regular season, (2) the full-contact portion of a practice shall not exceed 90 minutes in any single day, and (3) a high school or middle school football team shall not hold a full-contact practice during the off-season. "Full-contact" means practices where players endure collisions at full speed and execute full tackles or other activities typical of actual games.
The bill also amends Education Code section 49475, which applies to private schools. The law always required that an athlete of any sport who is suspected of sustaining a concussion or head injury in an athletic injury must not be allowed to return to the activity until being examined by a licensed health care provider. Now the law adds a new requirement. If the licensed health care provider determines the student sustained a concussion or head injury, the student must complete a gradual return-to-play protocol of no fewer than seven days in duration under the health provider's supervision. The law now also requires the health provider to be trained in management of concussions and be acting within the scope of his or her practice. The section makes clear that if the athlete is engaging in the athletic activity as part of the regular school day or P.E. class, the requirements do not apply.
Schools should make sure their athletic team participants, coaches, and trainers are aware of both the existing rules and the updated requirements. The new law takes effect January 1, 2015.