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New twist in return-to-play law is creating controversy

Photo by doctorwonder / CC Flickr

Photo by doctorwonder / CC Flickr

There’s a new twist in Ohio’s return-to-play law: House Bill 59.

The bill, which will be voted on in the coming weeks, will now allow chiropractors to make the final decision on whether student athletes can return to play after being taken off the field for symptoms of a concussion.

Today, I had the chance to talk with WAKR host Ray Horner about this topic.

This bill is not talking about sideline coverage. And, in my opinion, the best people to make these decisions are those at a concussion center running tests on the athlete to ensure the brain is functioning correctly and it’s safe for that child to return to play.

Below is an audio file and transcript of our discussion.

Horner: Dr. Joe, thanks for calling me back, my friend. I apologize for that.

Dr. Congeni: That’s alright. We’ve been at this for awhile, so I don’t mind you hanging up on me at all, Ray.

Horner: [laughter] What do you have for us today?

Dr. Joe Congeni

Dr. Joe Congeni

Dr. Congeni: You know, you asked me in studio last week, and I kind of avoided it. We’re getting weary about this topic: The latest with the concussion bill, House Bill 143, from the end of 2012.

A new twist and turn in late spring of 2013 here is what’s called House Bill 59, a push on an appropriations bill, which really doesn’t have anything to do with education or care of patients. It’s a push to [allow] chiropractors to return athletes to play.

So, the original House Bill 143, it was physicians — MDs and DOs — that could sign off on return to play for young athletes. Chiropractors were certainly a part of the process, but that would be in collaboration or in consultation with the physician.

Now in House Bill 59, which will be voted on in the next week or two and there’s a lot of play and discussion, chiropractors would be back independently making those decisions.

So the only issues about that, Ray, that I want you guys to be clear on is first of all, a lot of people are thinking, oh my gosh, this is just another oppositional thing between chiropractors and docs. That’s not the way we feel, I feel, at all.

In fact, I’ve got sports chiropractors who work with me; they are an important part of the sports medicine team. There’s parts of what they do that’s very important for the sports medicine team in caring for athletes.

This bill, though, is not about sideline coverage, and it’s not only about high school athletes. Remember that. The OHSAA (Ohio High School Athletic Association) passed their guidelines back in 2010. This is about young athletes and this isn’t on the sideline.

When a kid is diagnosed with a concussion on the sidelines, it’s never appropriate for him/her to return to play in the same game. Return to play is a decision that is made later in a clinic setting.

The best people on the sports medicine team to make those decisions are people at a concussion center that have tests like the computerized cognitive test, where you see if people are thinking clearly, and the balance tests and things like that to see if the brain is recovered and to see if kids should return to play, particularly young kids.

We’re not talking about sidelines coverage for high school athletes. That’s a great place to have chiropractors as a part of the team. But, unfortunately, what’s getting lost in this is really this is for return to play and these decisions are so important that’s why it’s become such a big deal.

Horner: Alright, Joe. Great stuff as always, good insight and you always keep us updated on the health and safety in sports medicine. Thanks, Joe.

Dr. Congeni: Alright, Ray. Have a great week.    

Horner: You too. Dr. Joe Congeni, Sports Medicine Center at Akron Children’s Hospital.

About Dr. Joe Congeni - Director of Sports Medicine

Dr. Joe Congeni is the Director, Sports Medicine; Clinical Co-Director, Center for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine at Akron Children's Hospital. For the past 25 years, Dr. Congeni has been the “go to” source for national and local media looking for information about pediatric sports medicine.