House panel considers youth concussion law

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ATLANTA — Falcons kicker Matt Bryant can still remember taking a hit during an elementary school football game.

Falcons kicker Matt Bryant told the Georgia House that "the whole education part of this is important," when it comes to concussions.  FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Falcons kicker Matt Bryant told the Georgia House that "the whole education part of this is important," when it comes to concussions.

The sky turned yellow and he saw green dots. At 10 or 11, he didn’t recognize the incident as a possible concussion.

Now a father of seven children, Bryant is pushing for legislation in Georgia that would help educate young players and their parents, coaches and others about the dangers of concussions and the need to protect student athletes from serious brain injury.

“I’ve probably had concussions and didn’t know it,” Bryant told a panel of Georgia House representatives in a hearing Wednesday.

Lawmakers heard testimony from Bryant and former Falcons linebacker Buddy Curry in support of House Bill 673. The legislation is part of a national push by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NCAA President Mark Emmert, who are urging 19 governors to support similar proposals across the country.

Currently, 31 states have such laws and another 14 are considering such legislation, which is modeled after Washing­ton state’s 2009 “Zackery Lystedt Law,” named for a middle school football player who sustained brain damage after he suffered a concussion and returned to play.

That law requires that a player who shows signs of a concussion be removed from a game or practice, and bars the player from competing again until being cleared by a licensed health care professional trained in concussion evaluation and management.

The language for Georgia’s version of the bill is still being finalized as current and former lawmakers and doctors testified before the House Health and Human Services Committee for more than an hour.

Curry, who played for the Falcons from 1980 to 1987 and led the team in tackles for years, told lawmakers that he suffered several concussions during his career and remembers one instance.

He came off the field dazed but one or two plays later, he was putting his helmet back on and leaving the sidelines.

“It was a badge of honor … to be the toughest guy on the block,” Curry said. “We gotta change that culture. This bill ensures that the proper people are making the decision.”

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