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What parents need to know about Wisconsin’s concussion law

If your child plays school, youth or club sports in Wisconsin you’ve been impacted by Wisconsin Act 172 — though you might not know it.

In recent years, we’ve seen much more attention focused on concussions in children, but this wasn’t always the case. Wisconsin Act 172, passed by the Wisconsin State Legislature in 2012, brought a new era of awareness and prevention of concussions. The law has helped coaches, parents and health professionals understand the potential long-term effects of an untreated concussion and develop plans for keeping kids safe.

As a sports medicine specialist, I am proud to have been able to participate in drafting this law that benefits kids and protects student athletes.

The three main points of the law are:

  • Every parent and student athlete must sign an educational consent form stating that they understand the risk for concussion and the need to report a concussion immediately. 
     
  • Any athlete who suffers a concussion or suspected concussion must be removed from play immediately.

  • An injured athlete can only return to play with the written permission from a health care provider.

Here’s why the topic of concussions is important enough to warrant its own law.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a brain injury that usually is caused by a direct blow or jolt to the head or face, like a sports injury or a bad fall. Concussions can happen while playing any sport, but especially collision sports like football, soccer, hockey or lacrosse. But concussions can also occur outside organized sports, like when kids are riding bikes or skateboards.

Signs and symptoms

There are many signs and symptoms of a concussion, including:

Physical

  • Headache or pressure in the head

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Balance problems or dizziness

  • Sensitivity to light and noise

Cognitive

  • Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy

  • Confusion, lack of concentration or memory problems

  • Impaired academic performance

Emotional/behavioral

  • Feeling down or “just not feeling right”

  • Mood swings, irritability, nervousness or sadness

  • Having trouble sleeping

Common misconceptions

While some people think you have to be knocked unconscious to have a concussion, that isn’t true. A person with a concussion will not necessarily have amnesia, or loss of memory, although that can be a side effect.

Also, teens can have a normal CT scan and their pupils may react to light properly by dilating — and they can still have a concussion.

It’s critical that your child seen by a doctor if you suspect a concussion. A pediatric concussion specialist can evaluate your child using a variety of factors to determine if a concussion is present.

Treatment

The most important thing to do if a concussion is suspected is to immediately remove an athlete from play and have them rest. Brain rest and physical rest are especially important for young people since their brains are still developing.

Physical rest includes

  • No sports, gym class or physical activity

  • Activities can resume gradually under the guidance of/with the clearance of a health care professional.

Brain rest includes

  • Limiting computer and television, but avoiding video games

  • May include a break from schoolwork or a reduced workload in school

  • Student athletes must return to their normal level of schoolwork before returning to physical activity.

When concussions are treated properly, not only do athletes heal faster, but they are prevented from suffering another concussion in short succession — which can lead to second impact syndrome and other serious outcomes.

If you have a question about your child and concussions, call our Concussion Line at (414) 337-8000.