North Carolina House Bill 116 would allow concussed students to re-enter competition with parents approval

UPDATE 3/1/2017: A USA TODAY Report is now reporting that the bill’s sponsors plan on removing the controversial provision that would allow parents to determine if a student is able to return to a game after displaying concussion symptoms. 

“That’s going to be changed,” said North Carolina State Rep. Greg Murphy, who is also a physician. “It’s not necessary because I don’t believe parents are medical professionals and they are not qualified to make such decisions.


Original story published Feb 27, 2017. 

A North Carolina law features a provision that allows for parents to decide if they want their child return to a game even if a student is concussed.

Under the state’s current law, any student displaying concussion symptoms during a game must be immediately removed.

The current concussion law is known as the Gfeller-Waller Concussion Awareness Act. It has a lot of language that mimics the proposed HB116, including regular concussion safety training for school staff. However, the Gfeller-Waller requires clearance from a physician, neuropsychologist, nurse practitioner, or athletic trainer before allowing a student to compete again. According to, the original law was crafted with numerous medical advisory boards at the table.

HB 116 isn’t all bad, it’s just a classic case of an imperfect law. In fact, HB 116 has strengths. The law requires local governments to “educate those involved in school athletic activities on sudden cardiac arrest and heat-related illnesses,” and it calls for the establishment of “a database on the occurrence of injury and illness.”

Here’s more from Vocativ’s report:

Dr. Katie Flanagan, Director of Athletic Training at East Carolina University, told Vocativ that she appreciated the intent of the bill’s authors, but does see significant areas for improvement. “I don’t want to bash anything that supports student safety in athletics,” Flanagan said, “However, our state has a very robust concussion law.” 

“I’ll preface by saying I’m not a parent, but I don’t believe HB 116 is in the best interest of the athletes,” said Flanagan, who has over 37 years of medical experience. Further, she emphasized that even the most well-trained parent has biases that can compromise their child’s health.

Regardless, Flanagan is hopeful that she can work with legislatures that want to hear her counsel: “If these gentlemen and women wanted to get on some sort of national bill working with the health and safety people that are already in place, that would be amazing.”

Look. Allowing untrained, overzealous parents to make medical decisions in the heat of competition is plain stupid. Most parents, one would hope, would make the right decision, but given all the research on the severity and long-term repercussions of brain trauma, this is a decision better left to the pros.

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