Sanford Health's top policy priority in Minnesota for 2011 was passage of legislation to improve recognition and management of concussion injuries in youth sports. The High School League of Minnesota had done a great job of promoting awareness of concussion injuries and establishing return to play standards for athletes in athletic activities under their jurisdiction. However, we know that concussion injuries can occur in athletes of any age, in both school-sponsored sports and other organized youth athletic activities. Passing legislation to establish return-to-play standards and promote concussion education and awareness is one of the most effective ways to ensure young athletes who suffer a concussion have the time needed to heal properly before returning to sports.
In preparation for the 2011 legislative session, Sanford Health partnered with the Brain Injury Association of Minnesota and the Minnesota Athletic Trainers Association to draft responsible concussion management legislation modeled after the Lystedt Law in Washington State. Rep. Rod Hamilton and Sen. Michelle Benson agreed to serve as Chief Authors for this bill in the House and Senate, respectively.
The concussion bill was subjected to a grueling committee screening process that included hearings in front of the House Education Reform, Senate Education, House Government Operations and Elections, House Health and Human Services Reform and House Civil Law Committees. Throughout those hearings two Sanford Health experts, Dr. Mark Carlson and Dr. Michael Bergeron, provided compelling testimony that demonstrated to lawmakers the serious risk of concussion injuries for young people and the need for this legislation. Their input, combined with emotional testimony from 15-year-old Kayla Meyer, a hockey player from New Prague, MN who suffered multiple concussions, presented a compelling case that led to recommended passage of the bill in each committee hearing.
Following this extensive committee process, the Legislature passed the bill with broad, bipartisan support in both the House (125-4) and Senate (54-10). It is one of the strongest pieces of youth concussion legislation passed in the U.S. to date.