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Lawmakers Push For More Concussion Awareness

Lisa Ryan/WUIS

A proposal in the Illinois Senate would make sure students are completely recovered before returning to athletics or the classroom.

Each year, there are 200,000 concussion-related emergency room visits for children and teenagers in the U.S. For one Chicago lawmaker, that’s not just a statistic.

Both of Democratic Sen. Kwame Raoul's kids have sustained concussions. Raoul says his teenage daughter, Mizan, is still recovering from one she received one when she was playing basketball in January. At first, nobody realized it was a concussion.

"If I as a legislator working on this policy was blind to this invisible injury, imagine how teachers at school don't fully understand will not know to accommodate for the injury," he said.

A proposal Raoul is sponsoring would expand high school concussion policies to elementary and middle schools. It also requires guidelines for when students can return to school and athletics after sustaining a concussion.

Democratic Sen. Dan Kotowski of Park Ridge has helped pass a state law that requires coaches to get certification for dealing with concussions, but he says more should be done.

"I think we owe it to our kids to make sure they have every opportunity to learn, every opportunity to be successful academically and on the athletic field, but also that they have a chance to have a great quality of life," Kotwoski said.

The Illinois High School Association had said the proposal was repetitive, but it now supports the measure. An IHSA spokesman says schools will have the flexibility to adapt concussion policies to their needs.

Lisa Ryan is a graduate student in the public affairs reporting program at the University of Illinois at Springfield. She previously worked at Indiana Public Radio and the college radio station founded by David Letterman. She is a 2014 broadcast journalism and political science graduate of Ball State University.
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