- Associated Press - Friday, March 6, 2015

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - Strict guidelines on when a New Mexico student athlete can return to play after a concussion cleared an initial legislative hurdle Friday.

The Senate Education Committee voted to advance a bill that would create rules for coaches on when to allow a middle or high school athlete back in a game after showing signs of a brain injury.

The proposal says coaches can allow the student back on the field or court after a week, and it requires coaches to go through training on recognizing brain injuries.

Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, said the measure was needed as medical information about concussions becomes wider known and as states around the country adopt similar bills.

“It’s for the kids,” said Sanchez, the bill’s sponsor. “It’s not for the adults.”

Still, some senators expressed concern that the proposal did not outline specific penalties for coaches who cleared student athletes for play too soon following a brain injury.

“I think this bill is a little thin,” said Sen. John Sapien, D-Corrales.

An Associated Press analysis of the 51 youth concussion laws - one in each state and the District of Columbia - found that fewer than half contain all of the key principles in a strict bill passed in Washington state in 2009.

That measure mandated education for coaches about concussion symptoms, removal from a game if a head injury is suspected, written clearance to return and a concussion information form signed by parents and players.

About a third of the laws make no specific reference to which ages or grades are covered. Even fewer explicitly apply to both interscholastic sports and rec leagues such as Pop Warner and Little League.

Certain laws make clear that they cover public and private schools and others only refer to public schools, while some don’t say at all. Almost all lack consequences for schools or leagues that don’t comply.

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