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Lawmaker says adding state Concussion Awareness Day would highlight problem

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PHOENIX – If a state lawmaker gets her way, Aug. 20, 2015, will be the state’s first annual Concussion Awareness Day.

“We continuously have a generation of kids growing up and starting their athletic careers,” said Rep. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek. “By having this annual Concussion Awareness Day that starts right at the beginning of the athletic season, it will increase awareness.”

Her bill calling for the change, HCR 2017, received a unanimous endorsement Tuesday, Jan. 27, from the House Health Committee, which Carter chairs.

David W. Dodick, a neurologist with the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, told the committee it’s important to inform people about the dangers of concussions.

“When it comes to concussion in youth, there are 45 million youth participating in a sport,” Dodick said. “So there’s a large population at risk. We have over 36,000 concussions in youth here in the state of Arizona.”

A 2011 state law requires that high school athletes in Arizona be removed from play if a concussion is suspected and then receive written clearance to return from a medical professional. It also led to the Arizona Interscholastic Association requiring high school athletes to complete Barrow Brainbook, interactive online training developed in part by Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center.

Dodick told the committee that the state should require baseline tests for vision and balance, saying the information provides 97 percent accuracy in diagnosing concussions.

Jeff Miller, the NFL’s vice president of health and safety, told the committee that improvements in helmets and other protective equipment have led to football players leading with their heads while tackling.

He said it’s important to teach players proper tackling techniques.

“I think that those mechanisms – the right example, the education, the advocacy – should change the culture in ways that are going to make the game safer for those who play,” Miller said.

Carter said with the state’s efforts at reducing concussions now geared toward high school athletes devoting a day to the subject each year would reach even more people.

“We can’t wait until high school to get this information out,” she said. “We need to start early. This is starting to try and build that momentum towards that goal.”