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Suffolk set to require injury policy for youth sports

The Suffolk Legislature is expected to approve a measure Tuesday that would require all youth sports leagues that get county funding to develop written policies for handling concussions and other head injuries.

"It's a good first step," said its sponsor, Legis. Brian Beedenbender (D-Centereach), who said his bill would cover 50 to 70 sports leagues countywide with more than 20,000 youngsters.

Under the proposed local law, any youth sports groups must develop a "written plan or policy to address incidents of possible or actual concussions or other head" injuries among participants. The proposed bill adds that a copy of the groups' written plan or policy must be submitted at the time they make an application for county funding. No one has opposed the measure at public hearings.

Beedenbender said the law is needed to focus leaders of youth sports groups on how to deal with the serious harm that head injuries can do to youngsters involved in their programs, especially dangers that are often hard to detect immediately. He noted that there were at least 137,000 reported cases of concussions or head injuries among high school athletes alone in 2007 and 2008 and probably more cases that went unreported.

"People think of it as a football thing," said Beedenbender, but he added that girl's soccer had 28,000 reported incidents and girl's basketball 7,000. "It's easy to see if a foot is broken, but most adult volunteers do not have medical training and head injuries are not always so apparent."

Legis. DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) said he is considering proposing a follow-up measure early next year to ensure that policies will protect youngsters. "We shouldn't just be collecting the paper, but analyzing it to determine if the policy is effective," he said. Gregory said his proposal would involve having the health department analyzing local policies or come up with a model policy that local leagues could use.

Presiding Officer William Lindsay (D-Holbrook) said he expects Beedenbender's bill to pass easily. "This is one of our feel-good pieces," he said, "I think local leagues should want to do it." Minority Leader Dan Losquadro (R-Shoreham) agreed: "Because there's been high profile injuries in professional sports, something good can come out of it by focusing everyone's attention on protecting our children."

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