Armed with more evidence about the dangers of head injuries, state lawmakers approved the new rules that Ohio Gov. John Kasich agreed to sign into a law aimed at protecting young athletes.
The new rules apply to youth sports organizations outside of the Ohio High School Athletic Association schools, which already have their own guidelines. More than two dozen states have restrictions on when young athletes can participate after a head injury.
Ohio's new law will require players to sit out games and practice if they have symptoms of a concussion or head injury. Those players won't be allowed back in until being checked and cleared by a doctor or licensed health care provider.
Dawn Hoopengardner, of Doylestown, said she supports the state's plans. Her 10-year-old began seeing double after taking a head-to-head hit during a youth football game this fall.
He missed not only the rest of the season but also two weeks of school. "We weren't going to take any chances," Hoopengardner said. "A leg can be fixed with surgery, but a brain, you can't do much except rest."
State Sen. Cliff Hite, a former high school football coach in Findlay, said the new law will help the coaches make the right decision.
"Coaches don't really know how to handle these situations, even if we've had a little bit of medical training," said Hite, a Republican.
Emergency room visits for sports-related traumatic brain injuries for young athletes more than doubled between 2002 and 2010, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
The changes also require coaches to know more about concussions and how to spot warning signs.
Coaches and referees who are responsible for removing players with concussion symptoms must complete an online concussion education course every three years.
Parents also must review and sign information sheets about brain injuries.
Doctors and health care groups backing the changes say young athletes are most vulnerable to damaging head injuries because their brains are still developing.
"Removal from activity is critical because of the great risk for a catastrophic injury if the child sustains a second head injury before the brain has healed from the first injury," said Dr. Joseph Congeni, director of Sports Medicine at Akron Children's Hospital.
Dr. Jason Dapore, who has been a team physician with the Columbus Blue Jackets and a suburban Columbus school district, said the symptoms of a concussion vary greatly, from affecting function to a mild headache.
"This is why prompt recognition and removal from play are critical," Dapore said