A Sisters woman's quest to protect youth athletes from the ravages of concussions sparked a new law in the state of Oregon.

Senate Bill 721, "Jenna's Law," was approved by the Oregon House of Representatives on Monday, June 10. The law protects child athletes in sports programs outside of school who have suffered concussions.

The bill was revised by the House to give legal protection to coaches and referees who volunteer in youth sports, therefore requiring a second vote in the Senate, which passed it on June 11.

The bill now awaits the expected signature of Governor Kitzhaber.

A campaign for Jenna's Law was begun by Jenna Sneva of Sisters, who lives with chronic brain trauma after suffering at least twelve concussions in her history of club sports as a skier and soccer player. The goal was to extend Max's Law, which gave protection to youth in high school sports.

Max's Law was passed in 2009, in another grass-roots campaign to improve the education and standards of recognizing sports concussions so that youth players would not suffer permanent brain damage.

Max Conradt played high school football, with a promising college career cut short by a second concussion that resulted in permanent brain injury. Conradt was allowed to return to play, although he had not recovered from a first concussion. He now lives in a group home for victims of severe brain injury.

"There was a lack of education about brain trauma, for everyone, not just coaches" said Brad Jacobson, Sneva's ski coach and trainer at Mt. Bachelor. "This bill requires basic education for coaches, officials, players and even parents in recognizing symptoms in this injury. It is often hard to define, but both Max's and Jenna's Law make it clear that precaution is primary."

A physician must now be consulted to release a child to return to play after a possible brain trauma or concussion, whether in a school sports program or club sports.

In some contention, before the House committee holding the bill approved sending it to the full House for a vote, a few state representatives objected to the Senate bill based on what coaches and officials association saw as a threat to their legal safety. A quick response from concerned citizens and retired professional athletes, such as Sisters' Dan Fouts, resulted in reversing the stall and got the bill to the House floor the next day.

Most adults felt that the law itself implied protection to coaches and officials by removing the choice to return an athlete to action without a release from a physician. The rewritten statute gives these volunteers more protection, relieving legal liability except in cases of "gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct."

The revision also does not require adults who "do not volunteer on a regular basis" to have training in dealing with concussions.

Senate Bill 721 is considered a great victory for Sneva and her family in reducing the chance that another young athlete will have his or her life altered permanently by an avoidable tragedy. The OSU student blames no one for her life-changing disorder, as there was no knowledge. That won't be the case in the future.

In what began as Sneva's campaign to amend Max's Law, the Brain Injury Alliance of Oregon instead chose to honor Sneva by naming the club and other youth sport law for her. They wanted her to be recognized for her two years of effort in what will now end, in most cases, the chance of repeated concussion and brain


For more information, visit www.takingitheadon.com.