Concussion legislation passes, but without liability clarity - Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Concussion legislation passes, but without liability clarity

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A late-session change to Senate Bill 336 seemed familiar to Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone.

Stollings, a physician, has spent years working on legislation to regulate head injuries for student athletes.

During the 2012 session, a bill doing that seemed destined for passage, but a last-minute debate over liability for volunteers caused the bill to die in its final hour.

Lawmakers continued to study the issue to craft another take on the bill only to see it gutted again on the final day of the current session.

Within the past year, the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission adopted many of the recommendations for concussion education and return-to-play protocol, but Stollings said the Legislature should put all those things into code.

And that was the reason he gave for supporting Senate Bill 336, even without a key provision.

"All we were trying to do is get clarification that we're covered by (the Board of Risk Insurance Management)," Stollings told lawmakers before they voted on the bill. "I have a letter from BRIM that says as far as he knows we're covered; I just wonder if Chuck Jones is no longer the head of BRIM if we'd still be covered."

Stollings said he knew the clarification about limiting liability for health care professionals who volunteer their time during athletic events was pulled from the bill by the House of Delegates, but he said he wanted the concussion protocols to pass more than he wanted to fight over the liability provisions.

"Frankly, folks, this is important," Stollings said. "We care about concussions; we'll worry about the liability at another time."