INDIANAPOLIS — The push to protect young athletes from sports-related concussions may soon extend beyond high school athletic fields and into the public parks used by private leagues and clubs that cater to young children.
On Friday, the Legislature's Commission on Education heard testimony supporting a measure that would require all youth football coaches in Indiana using municipally-owned parks or fields to be trained and certified in a player safety program backed by the National Football League.
The proposed legislation would put the onus of enforcement into the hands of local governments that may risk facing lawsuits if they allow uncertified coaches to use their facilities. Among those speaking in favor of the measure was two-time Super Bowl champion Roosevelt Colvin, who now coaches third- and fourth-graders on a tackle football team in Indianapolis.
Colvin said the lack of good training for the volunteers who coach league and club football puts children at risk for harm.
Of the 4.4 million children who play tackle football, an estimated 500,000 suffer concussions each season
"The things I see on a daily basis, in practice and in games, turns my stomach," Colvin said at a press conference before the hearing. "It's bigger than just concussions. I think everyone knows that a lot of parents, a lot of coaches are trying to live their dreams through these young men."
Indiana already has a law that requires high school coaches to be trained in concussion awareness. It requires them to pull a student-athlete from practice or play if they suspect the player has suffered a concussion. Those players can't return until they're cleared by a doctor. But the law only covers interscholastic sports.
State Sen. Travis Holdman, a Republican from Markle, wants to expand the law to cover all youth football coaches, including those who are part of leagues and clubs that play on public fields. He plans to revive a bill that died in the 2013 legislative session that would require all youth football coaches go through online training developed by the non-profit USA Football, the NFL-affiliated governing body for youth football.