A bill sponsored by Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, cleared a committee Monday morning. It would help shield amateur sports organizations from lawsuits relating to injuries like concussions experienced by youth sports teams, so long as organizations adopt clear policies regarding injury risks.
Ray's House Bill 383
is an extension of a bill he passed in the 2014 session encouraging youth sports organizations to adopt policies to help prevent serious injuries to youth athletes. Ray, who coaches youth football, says that, given the newest information about the seriousness of concussions, the legislation was intended to help educate parents and teachers about the very real risk of concussions and traumatic brain injuries that could result from sports injuries.
The bill last year promoted minimum requirements for these policies, such as an educational component. In Ray's case, for example, he hands out paperwork explaining concussion risks that his football players have to read and have their parents read and sign in order for their children to participate. Another requirement is educating coaches about recognizing symptoms of concussions among players, and pulling them from participating if they have those symptoms until a physician can evaluate and clear them to resume playing.
Ray said that bill was in many ways something he felt necessary because unfortunately many parents didn't recognize the risks, and wanted their injured child to continue playing. “As a coach, the only pressure I got to put a player back in was from mom and dad,” Ray said. “The parents were really the reason I drafted a concussion policy.”
Ray's previous legislation didn't mandate organizations adopt such policies, so now he says his current legislation is intended to provide an incentive for organizations to adopt such a policy by rewarding those that have them with general liability protection against individuals seeking to sue organizations because of injuries players received.
Ray stressed, however, that the bill was not providing absolute protection, and organizations could still be liable for negligence—for example, if a coach put a player in that he knew was injured.
Mark Van Wagoner, with the Utah High School Sports Association that organizes most youth sports in the state, says the bill is a good incentive to help protect organizations like his against lawsuits and encourage policies that protect athletes.
The UHSSA, he explained, is “a nonprofit association that organizes the interplay for the high schools. In that sense, we don't control what happens in each game; that's done in individual high schools. But some might want to sue the association because it's a target,” Van Wagoner said.
The bill was passed favorably out of the House Economic Development and Workforce Services Committee by a unanimous vote, and now heads to the house floor for full debate.
To read HB 383 click here. To contact Rep. Ray about this bill click here. To find your legislator to contact them about this bill click here. For more updates from the hill visit CityWeekly.net and follow @EricSPeterson and @ColbyFrazierLP on Twitter.