NORWALK, Conn. — At the same time concussion expert Katherine Snedaker was presenting in Monaco at an International Olympic Committee World Conference on Norwalk’s success at implementing youth sports protocols for concussions, statewide groups are fighting a new Connecticut bill to finally address youth sports concussions at a state level.
Norwalk resident Snedaker, Executive Director of Pink Concussions, and long time volunteer at Norwalk Junior Lacrosse led the movement which came from the youth sports programs to adopt policies in Norwalk for young athletes who might sustain concussions. She presented a 60-minute workshop at the IOC World Conference to explain the theory and practical steps she took to rally community support and involve schools, youth sports, city hall and Norwalk Hospital.
“The audience at the IOC session congratulated everyone in Norwalk for coming on board to make sports safer for children,’’ Snedaker said. “I feel so proud of what Norwalk has accomplished with the contributions of all our school nurses, both high school athletic trainers and athletic directors, with the the support of our school superintendent, the Norwalk Common Council and our Recreation and Parks Director for supporting these policies.”
Two years ago, Norwalk became the first city in Connecticut to adopt concussion procedures. Westport followed a year later.
“The Connecticut State Concussion state law only covers high school athletes who play an official sport for their school, and in Norwalk, that is only 1,145 students," Snedaker added. “The Norwalk’s Concussion Guidelines cover the rest of the 10,000 school children who are left out of the state law."
In Norwalk, whatever sport children play and whatever level they play, whether it’s on a soccer field, or a swimming pool or a gymnasium, there’s a law in place to provide basic safety guidelines. High school athletes have had with the state concussion law since 2010.
The Norwalk guidelines consist of education of coaches, parents and athletes with free, online resources from the federal CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the removal of injured athletes from play; permission to return to play; and a report submitted to Recreation and Parks after each season of any concussion during a practice, game or activity.
The guidelines mirror some of the legislation for high school athletes in the Connecticut Concussion Law 2010, which was updated in 2014.
"Youth sports are a big business in this country and well-funded groups opposing the bill are using lobbyists to fight the state bill and confuse the issues,'' Snedaker said. "There also is resistance to using a free, online training from the Centers for Disease Control which possibly threaten the system of charging for training for high school coaches."
Snedaker said the CIAC, YMCA and parks and recreation leaders fear that there will be undue workload for their employees and possible lawsuits if the youth sports bill is implemented. “But there have been no issues since the state law was passed for high school athletes, nor an issue in Norwalk since the youth sports city law was enacted,''' she said. "Actually, in fact, these types of laws which establish a standard of care, make it harder for families to sue organizations.”
Snedaker said 23 states now have added youth sports to their existing concussion law updates. “We were one of the first ones out of the gate with protections for high school athletes,’’ Snedaker said. “Now we’re left in the dust to protect our younger, even more vulnerable children. I’m frankly embarrassed for our state.”
Snedaker cannot get over the fact that concussion laws that interest participants at the IOC conference have been met with resistance by some in Connecticut. “The feedback we got an international conference was so amazing, but yet we’re still fighting at the state level,’’ she said. “It’s hard to comprehend.”