Concussion testing bill for athletes gets airing at State House

An Emerson College freshman appeared at the Massachusetts State House today for a hearing, hoping to build momentum for a bill that will help high school athletes stay safe after a concussion.

Molly Caron, of Raynham, suffered a concussion during a high school soccer game, and her life changed. She felt she couldn’t participate in certain activities for fear of her health, said Marc Pacheco, the senator who is championing the bill.

Pacheco, a Taunton Democrat, had been looking into the issue of concussions among high school athletes for a few years, and jumped on board with Caron’s cause.

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The bill calls for students in all schools in the state to be tested upon joining an athletic team. They would answer a series of questions and be given a score indicating how their brain performs uninjured.

If a student suffers a concussion, the student’s doctor could then administer the test again, and the doctor would have a baseline score to compare with the score after the injury. Doctors could then make a more informed decision on when the athlete can return to the field, Pacheco said.

“It seemed to me it would be a common sense kind of practice,” Pacheco said.

Some schools already administer such tests, Emerson College among them, but not Raynham High School, Pacheco said.

“I’m cautiously optimistic they will see the merit,” said Pacheco of the Joint Committee on Public Health, where he and Caron testified this morning.

The bill received support from athletic trainers, a neurosurgeon, a neuropsychologist, a recreation director, the National Football League, and a former WWE wrestler who had suffered a concussion. No one in the room spoke against the bill, to the knowledge of Pacheco.

Pacheco said the committee will mull the bill and decide whether to recommend its passage. If the bill gets the nod, it would first go to the Senate for its approval and, if approved there, to the House.

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