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Pascrell, Menendez Reintroduce Legislation to Protect Young Athletes

Safety bill will safeguard students from concussions, heat-related illness, and other medical emergencies

U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09) and U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) today reintroduced bicameral legislation today to improve sports safety and protect student athletes from cardiac arrest, concussions, heat-related illness and other on-field or on-court medical emergencies.

The Supporting Athletes, Families, and Educators to Protect the Lives of Athletic Youth Act, or SAFE PLAY Act, is the most comprehensive federal legislation before Congress aimed at improving the safety of youth athletes and focuses on various sports safety issues, such as heat exposure, EMS training, cardiac conditions, concussion response, and energy drink consumption. 

“As our understanding of sports-related injuries improves, so too must our response. Cardiac arrest, concussions, and heat exhaustion are just three of the many threats to our young athletes. It is on all of us to protect and preserve their health, and we are proud to re-introduce this legislation today to protect student athletes,” said Rep. Pascrell, co-chair and founder of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force. “The SAFE Play Act will help ensure that coaches, trainers, parents, and athletes are equipped with the resources to help treat and prevent different sports-related injuries they encounter. I want to thank Senator Menendez for leading to protect our kids and we will work together in House and Senate to secure passage of this important bill.”

“Young athletes and their parents must be assured that there are properly trained coaches, teachers, trainers and other personnel on the sidelines who are ready and equipped to respond to an injury or health emergency. Our SAFE PLAY Act will protect our kids and save lives by ensuring our schools have the resources and information they need to properly identify warning signs and respond in the event of a medical emergency during a game,” said Sen. Menendez. “Athletics are a key part of childhood and we want our children to participate in sports, compete, play and have fun, but we also want them to be safe.”

The SAFE PLAY Act builds upon legislation Sen. Menendez and Rep. Pascrell first introduced in response to a spate of serious athletic injuries and deaths in New Jersey and across the country, and language they had inserted in the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act to allow federal funding to be used to help states and school districts develop and implement student-athlete safety plans. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 30 million children across the U.S. participate in organized sports, 12 percent of those under 14 have been treated for a sports-related injury and 40 percent of those ages five to 14 have been treated in hospitals for sports-related injuries.  Tragically, young athletes have suffered preventable fatal head injuries, strokes and cardiac arrests sustained during games.

The SAFE PLAY Act aims to prevent and improve the treatment of sports-related injuries and illnesses among youth athletes, including sudden cardiac arrest, heat stroke, and concussions by:

  • Directing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and CDC to develop and disseminate educational materials about high-risk cardiac conditions to school administrators, coaches, school health professionals, educators, families, and students;
  • Authorizing grants for educational agencies and schools to purchase AEDs and implement CPR and AED training courses;
  • Requiring educational agencies to develop and implement concussion safety action plans;
  • Directing the Secretary of Education, in consultation with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and HHS, to develop and disseminate educational materials to school administrators, coaches, school health professionals, educators, families, and students about excessive heat risks and safety recommendations;
  • Directing the CDC and the U.S. Department of Education to develop guidelines for emergency action plans for youth athletics;
  • Directing the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and CDC to develop and disseminate guidelines about safe energy drink consumption for youth athletes;
  • Directing the CDC to expand research on the safety of youth athletes, and to report findings to Congress.

"Passage of The SAFE PLAY Act puts safety at the forefront, assuring parents a peace of mind that allows more time for cheering and less time worrying about their child's health. Sports Fans Coalition thanks Senator Menendez for his leadership and advocacy for youth athletes,” said Sports Fans Coalition Deputy Director of Public Policy Earl Ash.

"The number of fatalities from cardiac arrest can be reduced if a potentially life-threatening heart condition, like cardiomyopathy, is detected early and treated appropriately. The SAFE PLAY Act addresses this very issue and includes preventive measures to safeguard at-risk children," said Lisa Yue, the Children's Cardiomyopathy Foundation's founder and board president. Proper diagnosis and treatment for cardiomyopathy in youth are priorities for Ms. Yue, who lost two young children to the disease. “I am grateful we have congressional leaders like Senator Menendez working to prevent unnecessary deaths among young athletes on the playing field."

A full section-by-section summary of the bill can be viewed here.

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