The Ohio H.B.143 Issue: Protect the Athlete or Protect the Coach

By Doyice Cotten

AthleticBusiness.com reported an article in The Columbus Dispatch regarding YMCA negative reaction to House Bill 143 which includes mandated concussion education and requires an authorized doctor to sign off before an athlete can return to play after a concussion. The bill provides some immunity provisions which YMCA official Beth Tsvetkoff terms as inadequate.

Tsvetkoff is reported to have said that, under this bill, a coach can be held legally liable if a court finds his or her actions were done to intentionally injure a youth. The immunity provisions of the bill only apply if a coach follows the letter of the law, she argued, and concussion symptoms can be difficult to spot. “We want a coach to be able to spot a sign or symptom and know that they shouldn’t return a child to play,” Tsvetkoff said. “By giving them education and awareness and information, we feel we can accomplish those same goals and protect kids just as well, but be able to take that liability off the table.”

The bill was summarized in the Legislative Press Release as:

  • • Requires a parent or guardian to sign an information sheet stating that they have reviewed the information provided regarding brain injuries as prepared by the Dept. of Health before that student athlete can participate in practice.
  • • Requires a coach or organization official to remove a student from play immediately if suspected of having a brain injury. A student athlete who is removed from play due to a suspected brain injury must be cleared by a physician or athletic trainer before returning to play.
  • • Defines a youth sports organization and requires them to follow standards for removing an athlete suspected of having a head injury. The legislation defines a youth sports organization as public ornonpublic entity that organizes an athletic activity in which the athletes are age nineteen or younger and are required to pay a fee to participate in the athletic activity or whose cost to participate is sponsored by a business or nonprofit.
  • According to reports, many, including hospitals, medical associations, and trainer associations favor the bill; on the other side, many recreation officials and coaches oppose. Click here for a video explaining the need for the bill. But, even not all medical personnel agree with the bill.It appears that the bill needs more work. Certainly the safety of the youngster is crucial, but some of the bugs and ambiguity needs to be clarified in the bill. It may also be that some immunity needs to be provided for the coaches. Ms Tsvetkoff may also be correct that education is the key; educating parents and coaches to recognize the symptoms of concussions and to understand the importance of care and treatment.

    Nevertheless, I suspect that there will always be a few coaches who think that winning is worth risking the health of a youngster; that coach (who ignores the symptoms and either leaves the player in the game or returns him to the game when injury is, or should be, apparent) should not be protected by immunity from his or her negligence. In cases like this, there must be “teeth” in the bill to insure protection.Photo Credit: Thanks to Kenoatman at http://www.flickr.com/photos/kenoatman/3012668326/sizes/n/in/photostream/