Montpelier High School football coach John Murphy believes a bill Gov. Peter Shumlin signed Tuesday near the school’s athletic fields will make his players safer next season.
The bill, S.4, requires high schools to have a certified trainer or medical professional at all games involving collision sports to determine whether a player has suffered a concussion and to rule on when that player can return to the field. The law defines collision sports as football, ice hockey, lacrosse and wrestling.
The bill is particularly important to Murphy, not because the Solons suffered an abnormal number of head injuries, but because the squad lacks numbers. MHS had to forfeit several games last season because it could not field enough healthy bodies. Because of shrinking enrollment, MHS will field only a junior varsity team this fall.
“This will make it safer,” Murphy said. “The emphasis on safety is something we all take seriously.”
The law also calls on schools to record the number of concussions incurred and report it to the Legislature. Currently, reporting is done on a voluntary basis.
Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, who helped craft the bill, is also an assistant coach at Montpelier. He said the focus on collision sports could expand to include “contact” sports, such as soccer, at some point.
“We tried to look at what are collision and what are contact sports, although we urge in the bill that all sports have trainers or professional medical staff available,” Sears said.
Sears credited Montpelier High School staff and players with helping him understand the impact of concussions in sports and with helping to shape the legislation.
Also in the bill is the creation of a task force to examine concussion data and provide recommendations on future action.
Sen. Bill Doyle, R-Washington, attended the signing and said the Education Committee was made aware of head injuries occurring in soccer as well.
In signing the bill, Shumlin said it was “designed to protect Vermont kids. We want to make sure we have the teams on the ground to keep the teams on the field safe.”
Another key section of the bill requires schools to appoint a person to be capable of administering a premeasured dose of epinephrine to students who might be suffering an allergic reaction and to keep the medicine on hand.
“Allergies are a thorny issue in terms of health,” state Health Commissioner Harry Chen said. “Giving schools the ability to administer this life-saving treatment is extremely valuable.”
S.4 also contains language to identify ways to provide consistent mental health and substance abuse services to Vermont school students.