Nebraska concussion law takes effect July 1

Brady Beran almost died after a second football concussion in 2004. That’s why he spoke in support for the Nebraska Concussion Awareness Act.

Story and Photos by Kelly Morris, NewsNetNebraska

Four concussions in 18 months. That’s what it took for Blake Lawrence to quit football.

For Brady Beran, it was a five-week coma and stroke.  Lawrence and Beran aren’t alone.

A study of 94 head injuries in 2007 done by the National Center for Catastrophic Sports found that 9 percent of sports related concussion victims die.

Concussion Dangers

Nebraska is doing something about concussion prevention. LB260, the Nebraska Concussion Awareness Act takes effect July 1. It will require coaches, parents, high school and middle school athletes to be informed about concussion symptoms. The act will also discuss medical treatment for for concussions and require any athlete with a concussion symptoms to be removed from competition until evaluated by a licensed health care professional.

Blake Lawrence quit football after his fourth concussion to avoid long term brain damage.

In 2007, Blake Lawrence, a linebacker for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Huskers had a helmet-to-helmet collision with another player during spring training. His helmet also smacked the ground. Lawrence didn’t realize he had a concussion but when he started to forget plays, his teammates took notice.

After two more concussions, Huskers football coach Bo Pelini sat Lawrence down and said this: “Blake, if you were my son I’d never let you play football again.” Lawrence gave himself an ultimatum. One more concussion and he would stop playing football.

In October of 2009 Lawrence suffered his fourth concussion. He was done.

Brady Beran didn’t quit football. The second concussion made that decision for him.

After a hit during a high school football game, Beran started foaming at the mouth and had a seizure. It was his second concussion during the game.

Beran was rushed to the hospital, slipped into a coma and spent months relearning things most of us take for granted; things like sitting up and eating.

According to the Nebraska Sports Concussion Network, a second impact concussion like Beran’s carries a 50 percent chance of death. It also causes permanent brain damage.

Four people helped Brady Beran take his first steps again after his second impact concussion.

That’s why Beran says the Nebraska Concussion Awareness Act is important; he wants more families to be aware of concussions and their long term damage.

The Act’s limitation

Perhaps the most important part of the Concussion Awareness Act is the required removal of any athlete “reasonably suspected” of having a concussion. They cannot return to the game until evaluated and cleared by a licensed health care professional.

Former Kansas City Chiefs doctor and NFL concussion expert, Dr. Joseph Waeckerle thinks the act is a step in the right direction, but has concerns with the way the bill is written. He worries that the term “health care professionals” is too broad.

“This is the only real weakness and problem I can see,” Waeckerle said. “You could have a licensed health care professional with no knowledge on concussions.” Dr. Waeckerle thinks only brain specialists should decide when or if athletes can compete after a concussion.

Ron Higdon, assistant director of the Nebraska School Activities Association agrees with Waeckerle. Higdon said a meeting has been scheduled for April 18 to clarify the wording of the bill.

“Right now the bill also says that training must be available to staff and coaches,” Higdon said. “So we will deal with what this means and how we will implement and require this training for schools.”

Neither Beran nor Lawrence sees these details as a major problem with the bill.

“It starts with awareness,” Beran said. “No matter what, the education piece of this bill will bring a lot of attention to concussion awareness.”

Beran is excited and eager to see the bill take effect.

“I am really happy and proud of the Nebraskan Legislature to come up with this bill,” Beran said. “It will not only help educate, but prevent more concussions like what happened to me.”

Click to see the number of concussions by sport over a three-year period.