Mary Hayashi, NFL push sports safety bill

Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley, was joined by a constellation of former National Football League stars today at a Sacramento news conference announcing her bill to prevent sports-related concussions among California’s student athletes.

Hayashi’s AB 25, sponsored by the NFL, would require a young athlete who is suspected of having a concussion or head injury in a practice or game to be removed from play for the remainder of the day, and to get written consent from a health care professional and legal guardian in order to return to play.

“Kids believe they need to be tough and play through injuries, so they often return to play too soon,” the lawmaker said. “When it comes to concussions, this kind of enthusiasm can be life-threatening. Athletes who sustain a concussion are more likely to have a second or third incident, increasing the risk of brain swelling and bleeding, which can lead to coma or even death.”

Joining Hayashi this morning were Fred Biletnikoff, an NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver who played with the Oakland Raiders from 1965 through 1978, starred in six Pro Bowls and two Super Bowls and was named MVP of Super Bowl XI; Morris Bradshaw, a former NFL wide receiver who played with the Oakland Raiders from 1974 to 1981 and the New England Patriots in 1982, and is now Senior Administrator for the Oakland Raiders; Eric Davis, a former NFL defensive back who played with the San Francisco 49ers, Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos and Detroit Lions over 13 seasons, starring in the 1995 and 1996 Pro Bowls and helping the 49ers win Super Bowl XXIX; Leslie “Speedy” Duncan, a former NFL defensive back and four-time Pro Bowler who played for the San Diego Chargers from 1964-1970 and the Washington Redskins from 1971-1974; Jim Otto, an NFL Hall of Fame center who played with the Oakland Raiders from 1960 to 1974, starred in 12 All-Star games and Pro Bowls and Super Bowl II; and Keena Turner, a former Pro Bowl linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers who played 11 NFL seasons from 1980 to 1990 and won four Super Bowl rings, and is now Vice President of Football Affairs for the 49ers.

It’s second down and 10 for Hayashi on the concussion issue. This past January she had introduced AB 1646, which would’ve added training on potentially catastrophic injuries, such as head and neck injuries, asthma attacks, and heatstroke, to the CPR and first aid certification required of all California high school coaches, and AB 1647, which would’ve required athletes suspected of having a concussion to get a doctor’s written permission before returning to play. The former bill petered out in the Assembly Appropriations Committee; the latter was whittled down to merely require state certification for athletic trainers, and then was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Her new bill seems to have bipartisan support: State Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark, is the principal co-author.

“As someone who participated in youth sports throughout my life, I know first-hand just how important this legislation is,” he said in a news release. “Student-athletes will oftentimes put the team before their own well-being, so AB 25 is essential in ensuring their safety.”

Hayashi’s office says a recent NFL study found serious memory-related diseases and other health problems in retired athletes to be nearly twenty times the normal rate, and another study of retired professional football players found that players reporting three or more previous concussions were three times more likely to be diagnosed with depression than those with no history of concussion.

Because young people’s heads and necks are still developing, the impact of concussions is often more serious, Hayashi’s office says studies have shown. High school athletes who sustain a concussion are three times more likely to sustain a second concussion, and cumulative head trauma can result in health problems including sleep disorders, memory loss, and depression.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Ms. Hayashi,
    I apologize for not responding to this article sooner, but it just came to my attention. I was a team mate of Keena Turner on the 81 SF 49ers Super Bowl championship team when I developed hydrocephalus from a number of concussions I sustained over my 12 years of organized football. After undergoing emergency VP shunt brain surgery during the season, and two more just 10 hours apart, 4 months after we won Super Bowl XVI, I have now survived 9 emergency VP shunt brain surgeries and multiple gran mal seizures. I am a huge advocate for a cultural change on how the game is played. The price is too great with the way I was taught.

    Please let me know how I can help your cause.

    NFL players speak up against brain trauma (56%)
    08/19/2011 – George Visger, a member of the 49ers’ 1982 Super Bowl team, once carried a playbook. Now he carries a notebook wherever he goes because he can’t remember the simplest things. He scribbles down every similar results

    By Mark Emmons memmons@mercurynews.com

    George Visger
    SF 49ers 80 & 81
    Survivor of 9 NFL Caused Emergency VP Shunt Brain Surgeries
    Benefactor of ZERO NFL Benefits