Sports Concussion Laws in New Jersey and Pennsylvania

New Jersey's youth sports concussion safety law went into effect on December 7, 2010.

The key provisions of the New Jersey law:

  • Education and mandatory training: the state Department of Education must work to develop and implement by the 2011-2012 school year an interscholastic athletic head injury training program which must be completed by school physicians, all those who coach a public or private school interscholastic sport, and athletic trainers involved in a public or private interscholastic school program, and update the program as necessary to ensure that it reflects the most current information available on the nature, risk and treatment of sports-related concussion and other head injuries.
  • The program must include, at minimum, education on recognition of symptoms of head and neck injuries, concussions and injuries related to second-impact syndrome and the appropriate amount of time to delay the return to sports competition or practice after concussion.
  • Informed consent to play: requires the Department of Education to develop an educational fact sheet about sports-related concussion and other head injuries to distribute to parents and/or guardians of student-athletes and obtain a signed acknowledgment of the receipt of such fact sheet by the student-athlete and his parent or guardian on a yearly basis;
  • Immediate removal if concussion suspected: Youth athletes suspected of having sustained a concussion in a practice or game must be immediately removed from competition; and
  • Return to play after medical clearance: Youth athletes who have been taken out of a game or practice because of a suspected concussion are not be allowed to return to play until after the athlete has been evaluated by a physician or other licensed health care provider trained in the evaluation and management of concussions; and the athlete has received written clearance to return to practice and competition from a physician trained in the evaluation and management of concussions.
  • Immunity from liability. School districts and private schools will be immune from liability for injury or death of a person due to the action or inaction of persons employed by or under contract with a youth sports team organization that operates on school grounds if the youth sports team organization provides the district or private school with (a) proof of insurance in an amount not less than $50,000 per person, per occurrence; and (b) a statement of compliance with the school district or private school's policies for management of concussions and other head injuries.

Update: The New Jersey Department of Education has since adopted a model concussion policy which includes first-in-the-nation recommendations that concussed student-athletes be provided academic accommodations when returning to the classroom.

Summary of Pennsylvania’s Youth Sports Concussion Law

Pennsylvania’s youth sports concussion safety law went into effect on July 1, 2012.

The key provisions of the Pennsylvania law:

  • Student and parent/guardian must sign an information sheet— a student participating in an athletic activity and the student’s parent or guardian will be required to sign and return to the student’s school an acknowledgment of receipt and review of a concussion and traumatic brain injury information sheet.
  • Coaches must take training courses — once each school year, coaches must complete a concussion management certification training course offered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Federation of State High School Associations, or another provider approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. A coach should not coach an athletic activity until he or she has completed the required training course.
  • Schools may hold Informational meetings (optional) — schools may hold an informational meeting prior to the start of each athletic season regarding concussions and other head injuries; the importance of proper concussion management; and how preseason baseline assessments can aid in the evaluation, management, and recovery process. In additional to students, parents, coaches, and other school district officials, informational meetings may include physicians, neuropsychologists, athletic trainers, and physical therapists.
  • Students with concussion symptoms must be removed from play — a student, who exhibits signs or symptoms of a concussion or traumatic brain injury while participating in an athletic activity, must remove by the coach from participation at that time. This decision can be made by a game official, coach from the student’s team, certified athletic trainer, licensed physician, licensed physical therapist, or other official designated by the student’s school.
  • Students must be cleared to return to play — the coach is not permitted to return a student to participation until he or she is evaluated and cleared for return in writing by an appropriate medical professional. The legislation defines an “appropriate medical professional” as a licensed physician who is trained in the evaluation and management of concussions, a licensed certified health care professional trained in the evaluation and management of concussions and designated by such licensed physician, or a licensed psychologist neuropsychologically trained in the evaluation and management of concussions or who has postdoctoral training in neuropsychology and specific training in the evaluation and management of concussions.
  • The governing body of the school may designate a specific person or persons, who must be appropriate medical professionals as defined above, to provide written clearance for return to participation. In order to help determine whether a player is ready to return to play, an appropriate medical professional may consult any other licensed or certified medical professional.
  • Schools may penalize coaches who don’t comply—Effective July 1, 2014, the governing body of a school is required to establish the following minimum penalties for a coach found in violation of the requirements outlined above.
    • For the first violation—suspension from coaching any athletic activity for the remainder of the season
    • For the second violation—suspension from coaching any athletic activity for the remainder of the season and for the next season
    • For the third violation—permanent suspension from coaching any athletic activity