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Sports Medicine

Sports Medicine Physician Laurel Rudolph, M.D., Marshfield Clinic

​​​​​​​​​​​​​Wisconsin has joined 31 other states enacting formal legislation dedicated to the safety of youth participating in sports. Wisconsin Act 172 relates to concussions and head injuries sustained in youth activities. The bill was supported by a large coalition including: Marshfield Clinic, University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, the National Football League, the Green Bay Packers, the Wisconsin Athletic Trainers Association, Wisconsin Physical Therapy Association, Wisconsin Chiropractic Association and many others.

Each year, more than 3 million student athletes suffer a concussion. Female athletes are more susceptible than males. Most of these athletes return to their sport within a week or two. However, others may not be able to return for months or at all. Some suffer from chronic post-concussion headaches, or long-term learning and memory problems.

It is important that a concussion is diagnosed early and treated by a professional skilled in the management of concussions and head injuries. Of greatest importance is that athletes not return to play until they are without symptoms and cleared by a health care provider.

Wisconsin Act 172 requires the state Department of Public Instruction, in consultation with the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, develop guidelines and other information for educating athletic coaches, student athletes and parents or guardians, about the nature and risk of concussion and head injury in youth athletic activities. The Act states, “at the beginning of a youth athletic season, the person operating the youth athletic activity shall distribute a concussion and head injury sheet to each person who will be coaching that youth activity and to each person who wishes to participate in that youth athletic activity. No person may participate in a youth activity unless the person returns the information sheet signed by the person and, if he or she is under the age of 19, by his or her parent or guardian.”

The Act also states that a coach or official involved in a youth athletic activity, or a health care provider, will remove a participant from the activity if the coach, official or health care provider determines that the athlete exhibits signs, symptoms or behavior consistent with a concussion or head injury.

A key aspect of the legislation provides that “a person who has been removed from a youth athletic activity may not participate in a youth athletic activity until he or she is evaluated by a health care provider and receives written clearance to participate in the activity from the health care provider.” Health care provider is defined as a person who holds a credential that authorizes the person to provide health care, is trained and has experience in evaluating and managing pediatric concussions and head injuries, and is practicing within the scope of his or her credential.”

A complete summary of Wisconsin Act 172 is available at: https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2011/related/acts/172

Additional information about concussion is available. Visit Marshfield Clinic’s website http://www.marshfieldclinic.org/concussion

Share comments or questions on this information. E-mail sports.medicine@marshfieldclinic.org​.