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State concussion laws may soon cover students as young as the 5th grade

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (January 21, 2016) -- A bill designed to prevent repeated head injuries in athletes as young as the fifth grade continues to advance through the statehouse.

Senate Bill 234 calls for expanding concussion protocol beyond the high school gridiron. Playing under the lights on Friday night can be dangerous, but right now state concussion laws are in place to protect high school football players. The new bill would expand concussion protocol down to the fifth grade and include intramural sports beyond football.

“I would strongly support expanding concussion protocol,” said Dr. Terry Horner, a neurosurgeon and consultant for the Colts and Indiana University.

He told the statehouse committee that expanding the concussion law is important because young kids are more vulnerable to traumatic head injuries.

“We don’t reach brain maturity until the mid-20s, so the more immature we are the greater our chance of having a concussion,” said Horner.

“Going down to the fifth grade and monitoring students is very important,” said Michael Duerson, whose brother, Dave, played in the NFL for the Chicago Bears before committing suicide after suffering concussions during his playing days.

Michael also suffers lifelong health effects from concussions.

“I take 20 pills a night to slow my brain to go to sleep and I take 13 pills in the morning to get me up again,” he said.

This week former IU star Antwaan Randle El said he regrets playing football because of the mental and physical toll it took on his body, including constant memory loss. Medical experts hope a new concussion law will encourage more students and parents to fully consider the risks of playing contact sports.

“We don’t want kids not participating in sports,” said Horner. “We don’t need more couch potatoes. We want kids to be active, so sports are important, but safe sports is our goal.”

Because the bill passed the Family and Children Services committee, the next step will be a vote in the full Senate, which could come as early as next week.