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Congress and concussions, prepping for further litigation

The Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee holds a field hearing Wednesday in Newark, N.J., " Protecting School-age Athletes from Sports-related Concussion Injury," with testimony on H.R.1347, the Concussion Treatment and Care Tools Act. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), and the Senate companion, S. 2840, is sponsored by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ).

According to the CRS summary, the bill:

Amends the Public Health Service Act to direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to: (1) establish concussion management guidelines that address the prevention, identification, treatment, and management of concussions in school-aged children, including standards for student athletes to return to play after a concussion; and (2) convene a conference of medical, athletic, and educational stakeholders to establish such guidelines. Authorizes the Secretary to make grants to states for: (1) adopting, disseminating, and ensuring the implementation by schools of the guidelines; and (2) funding implementation by schools of computerized preseason baseline and post-injury neuropsychological testing for student athletes. Directs the Secretary to require states to utilize, to the extent practicable, applicable expertise and services offered by local chapters of national brain injury organizations.

Without disputing the seriousness of concussions, we note a rising level of interest, commentary and activity surrounding the issue on the part the litigation industry. Here's an op-ed in last Sunday's Albany Times-Union by Michael W. Kessler, vice chair of the Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association for Justice, "Brain Injuries Misunderstood." And here's a blog post at InjuryBoard.com by Mark Bello - a trial lawyer who also runs a litigation financing firm - entitled, "Heads Up: Athlete Concussions May Lead to Serious Traumatic Brain Injuries."

More evidence: The AAJ's Traumatic Brain Injury Group sponsored a two-day session in Chicago last May, "Litigating Traumatic Brain Injury Cases Seminar." The title of the morning session was telling, "The Lawyers Teach the Medicine," including the topic, "Loss of Consciousness is Not Required for a Brain Injury."

Ill-defined or hard-to-diagnose injuries -- think soft-tissue injuries -- obviously hold an appeal for plaintiffs' lawyers pursuing damages. Passing a federal law would lend legitimacy to claims made in such lawsuits.

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.