CLIFTON — U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-08), founder and co-chairman of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force, today joined Dr. Rosemarie Moser, Clifton Mayor James Anzaldi and Clifton Junior Football head coach Joe Gaccione to announce that the Clifton Junior Football League will be instituting new baseline testing on all their athletes to better diagnose and treat Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). This initiative, combined with the Clifton Junior Football League adherence to USA Football recommended safe limits for contact during practice, takes a crucial step forward in preventing and treating TBI in young athletes.
"As Co-Chair of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force, I have fought for the last 11 years to protect our athletes on the playing field as well as our soldiers on the battlefield from brain injury," said Rep. Pascrell. "We now understand the dangers multiple concussions pose to our children, so it's imperative we educate ourselves and our athletes on how to best protect them. I applaud the Clifton Junior Football League for adopting baseline testing and following USA Football concussion guidelines to protect our youngest athletes on the field."
“Football has been around a long time and our knowledge of the brain has skyrocketed," said Dr. Moser, who serves on the CDC committee conceived by Rep. Pascrell’s ContACT Act that is working to set protocol for diagnosis and treatment for TBI in young athletes. "Knowing what we know now, it is time to update the game. We need to take responsibility to protect our youth from the enduring effects of concussion. I commend Clifton Junior Football League for beginning the change to make the sport safer and hope that this is just the beginning.”
Baseline testing, which will be administered to all athletes in the Clifton Junior Football League, is a pre-season exam conducted by a trained health care professional which is used to assess an athlete’s balance and brain function (including learning and memory skills, ability to pay attention or concentrate, and how quickly he or she thinks and solve problems), as well as for the presence of any concussion symptoms. Results from baseline tests can be used and compared to a similar exam conducted by a health care professional during the season if an athlete has a suspected concussion.
Comparing post-injury test results to baseline test results can assist health care professionals in identifying the effects of the injury and making more informed return to school and play decisions.
"Protecting the health and safety of our young athletes if my number one priority as head coach," said Gaccione, who has been a coach with the Clifton Junior Football League for 26 years. "By implementing baseline testing for all our athletes and limiting contact during practice, we are trying to stay ahead of the curve on concussion safety."
In October of 2008, Ryne Dougherty of Montclair High School died from a brain hemorrhage after returning to play football without fully recovering from a concussion sustained earlier in the season. In response, Rep. Pascrell first introduced the Concussion Treatment and Care Tools (ConTACT) Act, in November 2008 and reintroduced a revised version in 2009.
The ConTACT Act directs CDC to convene a conference of medical, athletic, and education stakeholders to establish model concussion management guidelines; and authorizes grants to states to establish, disseminate, and implement concussion management guidelines for school-sponsored sports and fund schools' implementation of baseline and post-concussion neuropsychological testing technologies. The CDC voluntarily implemented part of the legislation that brings together a conference of stakeholders to establish concussion management guidelines, which will be used to prevent, identify, treat, and manage concussions in school-aged children.
To further ensure sports equipment safety, Rep. Pascrell introduced the Children’s Sports Athletic Equipment Act, which helps ensure that new and reconditioned football helmets for younger athletes meet higher safety standards to address concussion, and that the claims made to parents about their child's helmets are indeed true. It has been referred to Energy and Commerce.
In order to protect athletes and our soldiers from TBI, Rep. Pascrell also introduced The Traumatic Brain Injury Act, which is the authorizing legislation for TBI state infrastructure and the TBI protection and advocacy grant programs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the public education/awareness and data efforts at CDC’s Division of Injury Response.