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MONTGOMERY (Aug. 8, 2011) - Governor Bentley hosted a signing ceremony for Alabama's new concussion law today. The Alabama Statewide Sports Concussion Taskforce (ASCT), chaired by Dr. Joe Ackerson, helped to write and sponsored this important legislation, along with State Representative Paul Demarco, State Representative Ron Johnson, State Senator Greg Reed, and Steve Savarese, director of the Alabama High School Athletic Association.
Dr. Ackerson and the ASCT, which is part of the Alabama Statewide Head Injury Taskforce, have been working since 2007 to reduce the incidence and morbidity associated with sports-related concussion. It has been estimated that up to 3.8 million sports- and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries occur in the United States yearly with the highest rates of emergency department visits for sports concussion occurring for young people from ages 10 to 19. Youth athletes appear to be especially vulnerable to the effects of concussion, including cognitive difficulties such as memory and attention problems.
Dr. Ackerson is optimistic that most of the adverse long-term consequences of concussion can be avoided by proper identification of the injury when it occurs followed by immediate physical and mental rest along with proper medical management. The new law helps to ensure this happens by requiring all athletic organizations to: provide information on sports concussions to all athletic participants and their families; ensure that all coaches have training in the recognition of concussions; and immediately remove a participant suspected of having a concussion from participation and not allow him/her to return until cleared by a physician.
Dr. Ackerson said the passage of the law is not the end of the ASCT efforts. "We have been working hard for several years to bring together the top experts in our state to address this important issue. Our focus now shifts to helping to educate professionals, the public, schools and other athletic organizations about the law, to help everyone come into compliance, and to continue to build and support statewide capacity to recognize and treat sports related concussions," he said.
The ASCT includes representatives from the Alabama Department of Rehabilitative Services (ADRS), the Alabama Head Injury Foundation (AHIF), the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA), the Alabama Psychological Association, the Alabama Athletic Trainers Association, Hoover High School, University of Alabama, University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), University of West Alabama, University of South Alabama and Children's of Alabama. The ASCT has benefitted greatly from the expert medical advice and ongoing involvement of Dr. Jimmy Robinson, University of Alabama team physician; Dr. Michael Ellerbusch, Hoover High School team physician; Dr. Drew Davis, director of pediatric rehabilitation medicine at Children's of Alabama; Dr. Marshall Crowther and Drew Ferguson of UAB Sports Medicine at Children's of Alabama; pediatric neurosurgeon and medical director of ThinkFirst Dr. James Johnston of Children's of Alabama and pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Jay Wellons of Children's of Alabama; Dr. Jim Andrews, orthopedic surgeon at St. Vincent's Hospital; and Dr. Larry Lemak, orthopedic surgeon at Trinity Medical Center. More information is available at www.ChildrensAL.org/concussion