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Youth Sports Concussion Safety Laws: Massachusetts

On July 8, 2010, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed the Commonwealth's youth sports concussion safety law, which applies to all public schools in the state and any school subject to the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association rules. Originally slated to go into effect on January 1, 2010, the law was subsequently amended to give it immediate effect.

The key provisions of the Massachusetts statute are as follows:

  • Annual concussion education. A training program will be developed in which annual participation will be required for:
    • coaches;
    • athletic trainers;
    • parent volunteers in any extracurricular athletic activity;
    • physicians and school nurses, either employed by a school or school district or who volunteer to assist with an extracurricular athletic activity;
    • school athletic directors;
    • directors of school marching bands; and
    • parent or legal guardian of a child who participates in an extracurricular athletic activity
  • Training program components. The interscholastic athletic head injury safety training program must include:
    • current training in recognizing the symptoms of potentially catastrophic head injuries, concussions and injuries related to second impact syndrome;
    • providing annual concussion information to all student-athletes, including members in a marching band, including
      • the medical protocol for post-concussion participation or participation in an extracurricular athletic activity; and
      • written information related to the recognition of symptoms of head injuries, the biology, and the short-term and long-term consequences of a concussion.
  • Mandatory, signed concussion history forms for each sports season.
    • Before the start of each sports season, student athletes will be required to ssubmit form signed by both the athlete and his/her parent or legal guardian providing information on the athlete's sports head injury history;
    • The completed forms must be forwarded to all coaches as a prerequisite to participation by the student, to provide them with up-to-date information on concussion hsitory, and to help them identify students who are at the greatest risk for repeated head injuries.
  • No return to play without medical clearance. An athlete will be banned from returning to competition or practice during until he has provided the school's athletic director with written authorization from a licensed physician, licensed neuropsychologist, certified athletic trainer or other appropriately trained or licensed health care professional as determined by the department of public health if: 
    1. the athlete has suffered a loss of conciousness during a practice or competition;
    2. the athlete has been diagnosed by a medical professional as having suffered a concussion; or
    3. the athlete is suspected to have suffered a concussion.
  • No encouragement or condoning of dangerous play (e.g. spearing, helmet-first tackling). Coaches, trainers, or volunteers shall not encourage or permit student athletes from participating in any unreasonably dangerous athletic technique that unnessarily endangers the health of a student, including using the helmet or any other sports equipment as a weapon.
  • Mandatory record keeping. The school superintendent or school director is required to maintain complete and accurate records of compliance with the law, with a failure to comply subjecting the school to penalties as determined by the Department of Health.
  • No immunity waiver. The law cannot be construed to waive liability or immunity of a school district or its officers or employees nor create any liability for a course of legal action against a school district, its officers or employees.
  • Immunity for volunteers. Persons who volunteer to assist with an extracurricular athletic activity will be immune from a civil suit for damages arising out of any act or omission relating to the requirements of the statute absent a showing of willful or wanton negligence by such person.

Posted March 13, 2011