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Tennessee moves to protect athletes from brain injury

In recent years, the medical community has paid increasing attention to the risk of brain injury in common team sports. Football, in particular, has been under scrutiny, and educators all over the nation have been trying to find ways to improve safety for student athletes.

Recently, Tennessee legislators approved a bill designed to increase awareness of the dangers of traumatic brain injury and decrease the risk of concussions among student athletes. If, as expected, it is signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam, the measure will require school sports teams to educate their players about the dangers of concussions and how to identify them before they begin competing. It will also require teams to keep players who have suffered concussions out of the game until they are fully healed.

The law will apply to public and private school teams and recreational leagues for youths under age 18. More than 40 other states have already passed similar laws.

The concern about concussions is that they can cause traumatic brain injury. Brain injury can be devastating and permanently disabling, but its full effects often don't show up until sometime after the initial injury. There may also be symptoms that are hard to identify, such as confusion and memory problems, feelings of sluggishness, dizziness or headaches.

Brain injury can lead to huge medical expenses and long-term difficulties in working or securing employment. In bad cases, it can make independent living difficult or impossible.

The first thing anyone who suspects that a head injury has also injured the brain should do is get medical attention for the injured person. But when a brain injury has been caused by someone else's negligence, the injured person may be compensated for the damages.

Source: The Tenneseean, "Youth sports concussion bill set to become TN law," Nate Rau, March 22, 2013

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