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District of Columbia's Athletic Concussion Act the Most Comprehensive Law of its Kind

Brain Injury Association of DC, Children's National Medical Center, National Football League, and the Washington Redskins Applaud City Council's Unanimous Passage and Mayor's Signature of Landmark Legislation

Washington, DC – Landmark legislation developed to protect student-athletes in the nation’s capital from adverse effects of concussions was signed into law today. The legislation brings much needed protection to a particularly vulnerable segment of the population, and draws praise from local and national medical and sports organizations.

National research estimates about 400,000 concussions occurred in high school student-athletes from 2005 to 2008. The impact of a concussion on student-athletes is wide ranging, affecting their thinking and learning, as well as their social and emotional functioning.

The Athletic Concussion Protection Act of 2011, applies to athletes in the District of Columbia 18 years old or younger. It requires them to be removed from practice or play following a suspected concussion, and only allow them to return after written clearance by a licensed healthcare provider experienced in the evaluation and management of concussions. The Act also requires the Mayor to establish a training program, and directs the Department of Health to create educational materials on the nature and risks of concussions. Although similar legislation has been passed in 26 other states, the District’s law is the most comprehensive in its scope, addressing both in-school and extracurricular athletics.

“We have focused on the needs of the community’s most vulnerable population: youth athletes,” said Joseph Cammarata, President, Brain Injury Association of D.C. (BIADC), who initially identified the need for such a law in the District, and led the charge by drafting language, securing sponsorship within the City Council, and generating support within the community. “As the nation’s capital, we should serve as a leader and set the example for others to follow, and the breadth of this law shows we have done just that.”

Several local and national organizations joined BIADC in praising Mayor Vincent Gray and the City Council for swift passage of the measure. Championed by BIADC as the principal local organization focused on this issue, the legislation was also actively supported by Children’s National Medical Center, the National Football League (NFL), and the Washington Redskins.

“The NFL and Washington Redskins are proud and pleased to support the Athletic Concussion Protection Act of 2011,” said Brig Owens, former defensive back for the Redskins. “It will prevent avoidable brain injuries and make youth sports better by making them safer. Parents, coaches, teachers, and school officials will certainly benefit from this new law. And, most importantly, so will kids throughout the District of Columbia. And, that’s a winning game plan.”

“National dialogue about this legislation has primarily focused on the athletic responsibilities of the student-athlete. But we cannot ignore the consequences of a concussion on the academic learning and performance of the student-athlete,” said Gerard Gioia, PhD, Director, Safe Concussion Outcome Recovery & Education (SCORE) Program, Children’s National Medical Center. “Our current research finds adverse effects on school learning, with close to 90 percent of students in our clinics reporting significant worsening of post-concussion symptoms when they attempt cognitive tasks. In our experience, these problems persisted well beyond a month for many students. We must provide effective treatments that maximize the student’s recovery and minimize any long-term post-concussion problems.”

“The NFL is playing a leading role in addressing the issue of concussions for our players as well as athletes at all levels, and in all sports,” said Kenneth Edmonds, Director of Government Relations and Public Policy, NFL. “Our work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and USA Football has disseminated vital information to youth athletes, coaches, and parents across the country. In collaboration with leaders in medicine, education, sports, and government, the NFL also has undertaken a state-level advocacy effort to promote youth concussion laws similar to the 2009 Zackery Lystedt law in the state of Washington.”

The new law will take effect after a 30-day review period by the U.S. Congress, which is required of all laws enacted in the District, as well as official publication in the District Register, which is the which is the weekly official legal bulletin published by the District of Columbia government.

Media contacts:

  • Brain Injury Association of DC
    Amit Malhotra
    (202) 569-8140
  • Children’s National Medical Center
    Paula Darte
    (202) 476-4500
  • National Football League
    Brian McCarthy 
    (212) 450-2069
  • Washington Redskins
    Tony Wyllie
    (281) 415-4942

Media Contacts