Browne, Briggs Introduce Proposed Safety in Youth Sports Act

NFL players and exec on hand with former Tamaqua athlete to support measure to protect PA kids

HARRISBURG, Jan. 26 – State Sen. Pat Browne and State Rep. Tim Briggs today held a joint media event with the National Football League at the Capitol to announce the introduction of their proposed Safety in Youth Sports Act. Legislation will be introduced in both the state House and Senate to better manage concussions in youth sports and to increase awareness regarding their seriousness and the devastating, life-long effects they can cause.browne-012611-sm

Speaking at the news conference were a senior NFL executive, former NFL players, a brain injury awareness advocate and a former girls high school basketball player from Tamaqua who shared her touching personal story.

“We all know that concussions are nothing to shake off, and we need to make sure we do everything we can to protect our student athletes from serious injury,” Briggs said. “I have been working hard on this legislation for more than a year, and it has come a long way from where we started. Thanks to discussions with statewide medical associations, athletic groups and advocates, we have been able to draft a bill that we can all be proud of.”

The proposed Safety in Youth Sports Act (H.B. 200/S.B. 200) aims to ensure that male and female student athletes who suffer concussions receive proper care and rest before they get back into the game. The bill states that a player who shows symptoms of sustaining a concussion would not be able to return to play until they are cleared by an appropriate medical professional. It also would require students and a parent or guardian to read and sign a concussion awareness sheet so they are better informed about injuries that may be sustained on the field.

“Certainly, and justifiably, there is now heightened public awareness of the dramatic occurrence and consequences of head trauma resulting from sports competition,” Browne said. “The media has done a great job in increasing public awareness of the frequency and severity of concussions among athletes at all levels – from professionals to scholastic teams.

“But, in the heat of battle, we all know there are some coaches who will place winning over the welfare of their student athletes or simply will let the student athlete make the call. It is time for that to end,” he added.

Joe Browne, senior advisor to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, spoke in support the legislators’ efforts to protect Pennsylvania student athletes with the proposed youth sports safety plan.

“On behalf of the NFL, we thank Senator Browne and Representative Briggs for their leadership on this issue of youth sports concussions,” Joe Browne said. “We believe their bills will help raise awareness and protect young athletes — both boys and girls — from the dangers of preventable brain injuries.”

Joining Joe Browne in support of the legislation were two former NFL players: Harold Carmichael and Mike Quick, former Philadelphia Eagles. Jon Witman, a former Penn State Nittany Lion and Pittsburgh Steeler, planned to attend the event but was unable to due to inclement weather.

Mike Miller, vice president of the Brain Injury Association of Pennsylvania, emphasized how the Safety in Youth Sports Act would increase awareness and lead to better concussion management across the state.

“It is our belief that by passing this legislation, coaches, students and families would eventually be better equipped to handle concussions wherever they occur,” Miller said.

Closing the event was Tracy Yatsko, a former high school basketball player from Tamaqua. In January 2005, Yatsko, now 23, experienced a concussion on the court when she came down for a rebound and her head collided with another player’s. Instead of seeking proper care, Yatsko continued to practice and play in a game in the days immediately following her concussion. At the end of the game, Yatsko collapsed in the locker room.

Yatsko spent the next six months in and out of the hospital, and the recovery process since then has been filled with debilitating migraines and doctors’ visits. Her attempt to attend college was unsuccessful because of her brain injury, and the migraines have prevented her from holding down steady employment.

“From post-traumatic stress, to severe depression, and even suicidal thoughts, I’ve gone through it all in the past six years,” Yatsko said. “In the blink of an eye, I went from being one of the top athletes in school to having my family help me do the simplest things that we all take for granted.”

But Yatsko has soldiered on and has been telling her story with the hopes that it will help protect others from having to experience what she has been through. She has recorded a YouTube video for the Centers for Disease Control, spoken at Lincoln Financial Field last June with Briggs and the Philadelphia Eagles and today in support of Briggs and Browne’s new legislation.

“This is why I am here today, asking for your help,” Yatsko said. “Representative Briggs and Senator Browne are doing an amazing thing, and this bill is in a way giving my life a purpose. I want all Pennsylvania student athletes to know how important it is to get medical attention if they think they have a concussion, because it’s better to miss one game than miss your whole life.”

Attention now turns to the House and Senate, where Briggs and Browne hope Yatsko’s message will help lead to swift passage of their legislation.

The legislators noted that in drafting the legislation they consulted with the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletics Association, the Brain Injury Association, the Pennsylvania Medical Society, the Pennsylvania Athletic Trainers Society, the Pennsylvania Physical Therapists Association, the Pennsylvania Psychological Association and many others.

We have been very encouraged by the support that our effort has gained in the Capitol,” Briggs said. “Senator Browne and I are confident that we will soon be successful in passing one of the most comprehensive youth sport concussion bills in the nation.”

Briggs, a Democrat, represents the 149th Legislative District in Montgomery County. For more information, visit www.pahouse.com/Briggs.

Browne, a Republican, represents the 16th Senatorial District, which includes portions of Lehigh, Northampton and Monroe counties. He also serves as Senate majority whip. For more information, visit https://senatorbrowne.com.

CONTACTS:

Matt Goldfine Lesley Darrin Dan Masonson
Office of Rep. Briggs Office of Sen. Browne National Football League (NFL)
Phone: 215-500-1667 Phone: 717-787-8530 Phone: 212-450-2081
mgoldfine@pahouse.net ldarrin@pasen.gov dan.masonson@NFL.com