EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP/CBS 2/1010 WINS) – New Jersey took action Tuesday aimed at protecting student athletes from brain injuries.
Gov. Chris Christie signed into law a bill that requires coaches to remove any player who shows signs of a concussion. Those students would need to be cleared by a doctor before they can compete again.
All public and private school districts in the Garden State also would have to develop policies to handle head injuries.
Christie signed the bill at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford. He was joined by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, New York Jets Chairman and CEO Woody Johnson, and several former New York Giants defensive players.
Alex Vanderbilt, 12, was the quarterback of his Randolph Youth Softball Team and a concussion sidelined him for two and a half weeks.
“I was throwing the ball and I got hit and landed on my head,” Vanderbilt said. “I had multiple headaches and the first few days I was a little bit fuzzy.”
“When we were kids they just flashed a light in your eyes and said ‘Ok, if you know your name go back in the game,’” Vanderbilt’s coach, Douglas Todd, said. “They’ve come to realize that if you go back in too soon these things come back over and over and over again.”
Christie said the legislation lets children know that the first and most important job is to take care of themselves.
“This is not about someone not willing to play hard in whatever sport they’re in,” the governor said. “This is about protecting someone’s long-term health from being overwhelmed by the sense of competition we sometimes feel in our country.”
Goodell said he has been trying to change the culture of concussions in his own league.
“New Jersey is in a leadership position here,” Goodell said. “We as a league are committed to getting similar legislation passed throughout the fifty states.”
“It’s beyond football, this is about changing the lives of people who play these sports,” Goodell said. “We want to make sports safer.”
Christie said he hopes the message to student athletes is clear: “Above anything you do on the sports field, your first and most important job is to take care of yourself.”
Attention to concussions among pro and student athletes has increased over the year and national athletic and medical groups have made recommendations to address the problem.