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Ohio’s Return to Play Law – what you need to know

This summer, thousands of children will take part in youth sports. Parents should know that Ohio lawmakers recently approved legislation known as “The Return to Play Law” to protect student athletes from one of the most pervasive and serious sports injuries:  Concussions.

A concussion is an injury to the brain that may be caused by a blow, bump, or jolt to the head. Concussions may also happen after a fall or hit that jars the brain. A blow elsewhere on the body can cause a concussion even if an athlete does not hit his/her head directly. Concussions can range from mild to severe, and athletes can get a concussion even if they are wearing a helmet.

The Return to Play Law went into effect on April 26, 2013

According to the Ohio Department of Health, an increasing number of young athletes are being treated for head injuries in Ohio. The Plain Dealer reported, “Emergency room visits for sports-related traumatic brain injuries increased by 110 percent among young athletes from 2002 to 2010.” The Ohio legislature took action on behalf of student athletes by approving this new legislation. The Return to Play Law sets strict guidelines regarding head injuries for all school and community sports leagues.

The new law requires coaches and referees to remove a player from a game or practice who is showing symptoms of a concussion or head injury.  Athletes do not have to be “knocked out” to have a concussion.  In fact, less than 1 out of 10 concussions result in loss of consciousness. Concussion symptoms can develop right away or up to 48 hours after the injury. Ignoring any signs or symptoms of a concussion puts your child’s health at risk.

The player will not be allowed to return until he/she has been assessed and cleared by a doctor or licensed health care provider.  Doctors of medicine or osteopathic medicine may clear student athletes. However, The Plain Dealer recently reported that a new amendment included in the state’s budget would extend that authority to chiropractors. Lawmakers must make their decision by June 30, when Governor Kasich must sign the proposal.

Concussions are a form of Traumatic Brain Injury. Returning to play too early with a TBI may cause Second Impact Syndrome (SIS) or Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS).  SIS occurs when a second blow to the head happens before an athlete has completely recovered from a concussion. This second impact causes the brain to swell, possibly resulting in brain damage, paralysis, and even death. PCS may cause headaches and dizziness to last for weeks or even months after the injury.

If your child has suffered from a concussion or other injury while playing sports, he/she should NOT play or practice until cleared by a qualified medical professional.  Information sheets pertaining to the Return to Play Law are available through the Ohio Department of Health.


Ohio lawmakers approve greater safeguards for child athletes who suffer concussions,” by Joe Guillen, The Plain Dealer, Dec. 6, 2012

Ohio Senate poised to give chiropractors authority to clear young athletes who suffer head injuries,” by Brandon Blackwell, The Plain Dealer, June 3, 2013.