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NJ Lawmaker Seeks To Combat Sports-Related Concussions

An athlete is seen on the ground after suffering a mild concussion - File / Photo: Elsa/Getty Images

An athlete is seen on the ground after suffering a mild concussion – File / Photo: Elsa/Getty Images

CBS New York (con't)

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NEWARK (CBS 2) — With high schools in session across the tri-state region, Friday nights in the fall bring high-speed collisions on the gridiron – and concerns about concussions.

Now some New Jersey lawmakers are trying to tackle the problem.

Nicky Popyer, of Marlboro, is proof that concussions are not limited to physical, contact sports or to male athletes. Since seventh grade, Popyer has suffered as many as seven concussions that affect her to this day.

“I have had a headache from my seventh concussion on – it has not gone away at all,” Popyer said. “I get dizzy. I can’t really concentrate in school.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, high school athletes nationwide suffered more than 400,000 concussions during the 2008-09 school year.

The Concussion Treatment and Care Tools Act, sponsored by New Jersey Representative Bill Pascrell, hammers home the seriousness of brain injury. It seeks to establish national protocol and guidelines on how to react to sports-related concussions.

“When a person concusses, what the ramifications might be, what we should be doing, not to quickly put that person back into the sport,” Pascrell said.

About 175 high schools in the Garden State offer neurological baseline testing for athletes, in addition to specially designed helmets that emphasize protection. St. Peters Prep in Jersey City tests its athletes prior to the season and after a concussion.

“We have a quiet baseline test. We have the same guidelines that we do before and after, so it’s more controlled,” Kyrstn Hayworth, athletic trainer at St. Peters, said.

Pascrell is hoping his bill can help supply funding to the two-thirds of New Jersey schools still without neurological testing, and protect all athletes state-wide.

Pascrell hopes to have the Energy and Commerce Committee vote on the bill within the next month. If passed, a vote on the House floor would be next.