Holdman said the legislation is needed because of the “insidious nature” of concussions and the long-term impact for young athletes who suffer head injuries. He acknowledged that Republican Gov. Mike Pence has called for a moratorium on more regulations.
“I have the same concerns about over-regulating. But when it comes to issues that have to do with children and young folks, I believe those young folks are exempt from that moratorium,” Holdman said. “We’ve got to do things that take care of those young kids.”
USA Football’s executive director Scott Hallenbeck, who testified at the hearing, said his organization can provide the online training at a cost of $5 for youth league coaches and $25 for school coaches.
The training, called “Heads Up”, focuses on preventing brain injuries by teaching coaches how to teach their players how to safely tackle an opponent. It also includes training in how to prevent heat strokes, which are one of the leading causes of deaths for young athletes. Hallenbeck said more than 2,800 coaches have already been trained in the program.
“We’re talking about complex game to teach,” Hallenbeck said. “With due respect to these volunteers, we know their hearts are in the right place. We know they are committed to this game. We just want to make sure when we’re talking about coaching football, America’s favorite sport, that they are doing it in the right way.”
Hallenbeck said the Heads Up training was developed, in part, in response to the declining number of children who were playing tackle football. His organization estimates youth participation dropped last year to about 2.82 million players from 3 million in 2011.
Also speaking in favor the proposed bill was Michael Duerson of Muncie, whose brother, former NFL player David Duerson committed suicide in 2011. Michael Duerson said his brother suffered from a severe brain injury related to multiple concussions he’d sustained during his playing years. But Michael Duerson also called for the legislation to be broader so that it would cover all youth sports coaches. He said concussion was the leading injury in girls soccer. “And now we’ve got 3-year-olds playing soccer,” he said.
Bobby Cox, the commissioner of the Indiana High School Athletic Association also spoke in favor of Holdman’s proposal. He said it would provide “impetus” for the IHSAA to expand the safety training it already offers its members’ coaches.
Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at email@example.com