Youth Sports Concussion Laws in PA, NJ

Most states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey, have a youth sports concussion law to help reduce the risk of student-athletes suffering concussion, and its long-term consequences. Safe Kids USA monitors and regularly updates its overview of state laws in the U.S.

Summary of Pennsylvania’s Youth Sports Concussion Law

The Pennsylvania concussion law, effective July 1, 2012, for interscholastic athletics, school-sponsored cheerleading and school-based club sports requires the following:

Educational materials

The Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) and Department of Education (DOE) are required to develop and post guidelines and other materials to inform and educate students participating in or desiring to participate in an athletic activity, as well as their parents and coaches, about the nature and risk of traumatic brain injury (TBI), including the risks associated with continuing to play or practice.

The Departments are instructed to use materials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a guideline. All students participating in such activities, along with their guardians, must sign and return an acknowledgement of receipt and review of a concussion and TBI information sheet developed by the state.

Schools are also encouraged to hold an informational meeting prior to the start of each athletic season regarding concussions and head injuries.

Removal from play

A student who exhibits signs or symptoms of a concussion shall be removed from play.

Return to play

Student must be evaluated and cleared for return to participation, in writing, by an appropriate medical professional. The school may designate a specific person or people, who must be appropriate medical professionals, to provide written clearance for return to play.

Who is considered an "appropriate medical professional"?

  • A licensed physician who is trained in the evaluation and management of concussions
  • A licensed or certified healthcare professional trained in the evaluation and management of concussions and designated by the appropriate licensed physician
  • A licensed psychologist who is neuropsychologically trained in the evaluation and management of concussions or who has postdoctoral training in neuropsychology and specific training in the evaluation and management of concussions

Professional training

Once each school year, a coach shall complete the concussion management certification training course offered by the CDC, the National Federation of State High School Associations or another provider approved by the PA Department of Health. All coaches must complete the training course before coaching.

Penalties

If a coach violates removal from play or return to play provisions:

  • First violation: suspension for remainder of season
  • Second violation: suspension for remainder of season and for next season
  • Third violation: permanent suspension from coaching any athletic activity

Other activities

Youth athletic activities not addressed by this act are encouraged to follow the guidance in the act. This might include Little League, soccer associations, etc. that are not associated with public schools.

Where can I find the law?

Please visit the Pennsylvania General Assembly website for a copy of Senate Bill 200

Summary of New Jersey’s Youth Sports Concussion Law

Effective for the 2011-2012 school year, New Jersey law requires each school district, charter and non-public school to develop a written policy describing the prevention and treatment of sports-related concussion and other head injuries sustained by interscholastic student-athletes. This includes a procedure to be followed when it is suspected that a student-athlete has sustained a concussion or other head injury. An update to the law in January 2012 includes cheerleaders in its definition of “student-athletes.”

Educational materials

All school districts, charter and non-public schools that participate in interscholastic sports are required to distribute educational material to all student-athletes and obtain a signed acknowledgement from each parent/guardian and student-athlete.

Removal from play

Any student-athlete who participates in an interscholastic sports program and is suspected of sustaining a concussion will be immediately removed from competition or practice.

Return to play

A student-athlete who is removed from competition or practice cannot participate in further sports activity until he or she is evaluated by a physician or other licensed healthcare provider trained in the evaluation and management of concussions and receives written clearance from a physician trained in the evaluation and management of concussions and has completed his/her district’s graduated return-to-play protocol. New Jersey’s Model Policy and Guidance for Prevention and Treatment of Sports-Related Concussions and Head Injuries suggests that clearance to return to play involve active consultation between school healthcare personnel (i.e., licensed athletic trainer, school/team physician or school nurse) and the student-athlete’s physician.

Professional training

All coaches, athletic trainers, school nurses and school/team physicians shall complete an Interscholastic Head Injury Safety Training Program.

Other activities

Youth athletic activities not addressed by this act are encouraged to follow the guidance in the act. This might include Little League, soccer associations, etc., that are not associated with public schools.

Where can I find the law?

Please visit the New Jersey Legislator website for a copy of the Bill.

Review Date: April 2014