Eagles back effort to protect young athletes

June 1, 2010 2:44:59 PM PDT
A proposal to protect young athletes from repeated concussions gained important momentum.

The Philadelphia Eagles held a news conference at Lincoln Financial Field on Tuesday to put their clout behind House Bill 2060, sponsored by state representative Tim Briggs. The bill would keep an athlete with a concussion out of the game until they get written clearance from a doctor or nurse, and those healthcare providers must be experienced in managing concussions.

The goal is to take the guesswork, and pressure, out of clearing students to play.

"Not really to have it up to the individual coach or the parents, but to have medical professionals who are trained in this to be able to decide," said Rep. Briggs (D-Montgomery County)

Among those on hand was Tracy Yatsko, a basketball player who still has pain five years after her concussion, and former Upper Merion football player John Gonoude, who's first concussion came during training his sophomore year.

"My head just kind of jerked back, I was nailed to the ground, blacked out for a second. I opened my eyes, and they just kind of filled up. And I got up and kind of woozed over to the side," Gonoude said.

Six days later, he decided he was OK, and went back into practice.

"At night, I ended up in the hospital. I just felt like my brain was trying to creep out of my skull," said Gonoude.

The impact of that concussion lasted for more than a month, with Gonoude having trouble reading, or even remembering why he walked into a room.

But, he said, players and coaches didn't care.

"People would tell me 'Gonoude is faking it.' They'd say it to my face, or behind my back. The coaches would try and pressure me to get back on the field.

The bill covers scholastic sports now, but supporters want to expand it to cheerleading and club sports, where concussion numbers are growing.