The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

March 27, 2013

Guidelines for athletes’ return-to-play OKd

By Mannix Porterfield
Register-Herald Reporter

CHARLESTON — Concussion hasn’t become just a byword in the NFL.

That ugly word has filtered all the way down to the scholastic ranks, and the West Virginia Senate agreed Tuesday to legislation to protect volunteers and student teachers in return-to-play decisions.

Based on an interims study undertaken last year, Education Chairman Robert Plymale, D-Boone, said SB336 directs the Secondary School Activities Commission to set up protocols to treat concussions and other head injuries.

Minimum guidelines are to raise awareness among coaches, administrators, parents and athletes on the risks at stake with head injuries, he explained.

Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone, the lead sponsor, noted the SSAC has implemented return-to-play rules.

“This will educate people that are involved in the process — parents, students, teachers and coaches — about how important it is not to play with a concussion,” he said.

What’s more, it spells out that team physicians are covered by the Board of Risk and Insurance Management.

“This was really kind of vague before, that they were covered,” Stollings said.

“And they are covered up the limits of BRIM, and there’s not going to be any out-of-pocket costs of that. Whatever BRIM covers, the rest is limited.”

Head injuries have become so common in the professional ranks that referees have assessed an abundance of penalties, and the NFL followed with fines, for taking head shots against offensive players.

And the incidents have been occurring at the high school level, as well, Stollings said.

“I think they’re more common than we realize,” he said.

“What used to be ‘oh, you got a little ding,’ could really be a serious thing. It’s pretty common. And it’s not just football.”

Senators passed 10 other bills in the same floor session.

SB445 lets the tax commissioner divert lottery prizes to pay the unpaid liability of winners and creates a mechanism so the commissioner and tax department can swap information, Finance Chairman Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, said.

Prezioso pointed out this will put an additional $250,000 into the general revenue account each year.

The chairman noted that SB496 would remove $89,000 from the state’s revenues to pay claims against the state.

Another bill, SB584, permits the creation of pre-trial release programs as part of a community corrections effort in any city or county, explained Judiciary Chairman Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha.

A pre-trial committee must be arranged in any jurisdiction made up of stakeholders, along with the prosecutor and sheriff, and the panel would meet weekly to review risk assessments and recommend release of some defendants, he said.

The ultimate decision would rest with the judge or magistrate, Palumbo noted.

Palumbo said the idea, inaugurated in the Northern Panhandle, could product a “significant” reduction in regional jail bills counties face.

Senators also passed legislation that would permit a pilot reverse auction program, relieve local, county and state law enforcement agencies of the requirement to maintain confidential domestic violence orders, since there now is a statewide database, Palumbo pointed out.

Government Organization Chairman Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, said SB158, creating the Complete Streets Act, means towns must work in tandem with the Division of Highways to protect the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists.

Based on a bill Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin wanted, Prezioso said SB187 is aimed at having an impact on the economy, allowing him, the Senate president and House speaker to ask the Development Office to prepare an impacts statement.

When such a request is made, the office would have 20 days to prepare a statement, detailing the number of jobs created, retained or eliminated.

“Whether or not the jobs impact statement is prepared in a timely fashion would not have an effect or restrict consideration of this legislation,” Prezioso said.

Other bills would allow a hunter or angler buy a license at the courthouse and let the Tax Department provide otherwise confidential information on tobacco producers to the attorney general for use in litigation in the master tobacco settlement.