At their work session last week, the Thomaston-Upson Board of Education unanimously approved sending a message to State Representative Johnnie Caldwell that they are fully in support of House Bill 284, the “Georgia Return to Play Act.” If approved by the General Assembly and Governor Deal, the bill would require schools and organizations dealing with youth sports to provide concussion recognition education for coaches and others, and establish a return-to-lay policy for youth athletes suffering from concussions.
The issue came before the Board of Education at their February meeting. Board member Terrell Jackson said he had spoken with Caldwell and that Caldwell had asked for the board’s opinion on the bill. The board agreed to discuss it at their work session.
Jackson said he had heard that opposition to the proposed law was coming from youth organizations and coaches who are not wanting to have to pay for the necessary training.
School Superintendent Dr. Maggie Shook advised the board that she had talked to Mindy Daniel, the Director of the Thomaston-Upson Recreation Department, and said that Daniel is very much in favor of the concussion recognition training.
Jackson noted that he intends to talk with Upson County Commission Chairman Rusty Blackston and the other commissioners, since the Recreation Department falls under their jurisdiction.
Board Chair Keith Rohling added that anything that will help a coach understand his or her role is welcome.
“ Especially understanding how any of the symptoms that a child may display will help.,” said Rohling. “That would be something that any coach would want, I would hope.”
Following further discussion, Jackson made a motion for the BOE to support the bill. Board member Steve Sadler seconded the motion and it was approved, 7-0.
Editor’s note: The Times also asked Mindy Daniel for comments on this proposal, and she issued the following statement:
“Thomaston Upson Recreation Coaches currently are trained through a program called Simply The Best. In this training basic first aid is covered. We also have just recently added a local physician coming to Simply the Best training to address coaches about injuries.
“We have always used the GHSA rules for play as a guideline for our youth program such as heat advisories and breaks. Our coaches are asked to always put player’s safety first. Our football equipment (helmets/shoulder pads) are reconditioned and certified every three years to maintain their protective ability.
“Our state professional agency (GRPA – Georgia Recreation and Parks) is following HB284 and will be working with local recreation agencies to help make sure we can adequately inform parents of potential concussion or head injury and return to play guidelines.
“The Recreation Department has a strong working relationship with our local school system and we will look at the school’s guidelines for return to play. We work with younger participants and players who have varied skill levels. So our guidelines for return to play may be modified to be age & skill level appropriate.
Safety of our children is our number one priority. We will be monitoring HB284 progress and continue to work with volunteer coaches to provide training & guidelines.”