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Youth Sports Concussion Safety Laws: Arizona

On April 21, 2011, Arizona governor Jan Brewer signed the state's new youth sports concussion safety law.  Arizona became the fifteenth state to enact a strong concussion safety law since May 2009.  As of April 27, 2013, that number now stands at 45 plus the District of Columbia.

Key provisions:

  • Guidelines/education: calls for school districts boards to develop concussion guidelines and educational programs.
  • Mandatory consent: requires youth athletes and a parent and/or guardian sign and return a concussion and head injury information sheet on a yearly basis;
  • Immediate removal if concussion suspected. Youth athletes suspected of having sustained a concussion in a practice, game or interscholastic activity must be immediately removed from competition.  In addition to removal by coaches and licensed health care provider (doctor, athletic trainer, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant), game officials and parents are empowered to remove a player;
  • Same day return to play only if suspected concussion ruled out.  A player may return to play on the same day only if a health care provider rules out a suspected concussion at the time of removal.
  • Clearance before return to play. Youth athletes who have been taken out of a game because of a suspected concussion are barred from same day return to play and will only be allowed to return to play on a subsequent day after: 
    • being evaluated by a health care provider with specific training in the evaluation and management of concussions and head injuries,
    • written clearance to return to play from that health care provider.
  • Legal immunity: A health provider who volunteers his or her services and provides written clearance to play is immune from civil liability for all decisions and actions taken in good faith implementation of the law except in cases of gross negligence or wanton or wilful neglect.
  • Apples to private organizations using school athletic facilities. Any group or organization that uses property or facilities owned or operated by the school district for athletic activities must comply with the law.
  • Does not apply to all athletic activities: Unlike some state laws, the Arizona law does not appy to dance or rythmic gymnastics.

"I am grateful that the Governor signed this important piece of legislation.  Hopefully, other states will follow suit so that we can reduce instances of traumatic brain injuries across the nation," said State Sen. Rich Crandall, the bill sponsor.

Update:  The Arizona Interscholastic Association has since approved a new bylaw  - applicable to the estimated 100,000 Arizona high school athletes - requiring them to take and pass with a grade of 80 or better a 30-minute, interactive online concussion learning tool called Brainbook in order to compete in their sport.  Arizona is the first state in the country to mandate the testing.  According to the AIA, more than 150,000 student-athletes in the state have completed the program through April 2013.

For a list of state concussion laws, click here

For statistics about concussions in high school sports, clickhere.

For myths about concussions, click here.

Posted April 23, 2011; updated  March 30, 2015