Referees would be able to pull a student athlete out of a game if they suspected the player had a concussion and wasn’t being given a medical evaluation, under a bill under consideration by Kentucky lawmakers.
The legislation passed the House Education committee Tuesday, though several lawmakers expressed concerns it would put too much responsibility on sports officials.
Chad Collins, general counsel for the Kentucky High School Athletic Association, said that the measure might discourage people from becoming referees.
“Our concerns are putting an official in a position where they might be doing more getting closer to practicing medicine or diagnosing and we want to avoid that,” Collins said.
If a player is suspected to have a concussion, state law already requires teams to bench the player until a licensed health care provider conducts a medical evaluation.
The new bill would allow officials to remove an athlete from play if they have “reasonable suspicion” that the player has returned to the game without the evaluation.
Rep. Mike Denham, a Democrat from Maysville and sponsor of the bill, said the bill ensures the safety of student athletes in the case of an overzealous coach.
“You can’t go to the coach because he’d put him back in the game, but if you go to the official, their responsibility has ceased and they have no further say,” Denham said.
Several lawmakers on the committee worried that the proposed policy would open officials to lawsuits if they make the wrong call.
Rep. Hubert Collins, a Democrat from Wittensville, said that the bill would make referees liable for the outcome of the game.
“If you make a decision to take someone out of the game, that may be the best player. That team loses that game. What keeps someone from taking you to court saying you made the wrong decision?” Collins said.
“I really believe it should be left up to the coach and the school principal and the doctor if they’re there whether to remove that kid or not.”
Rep. Jim Decesare, a Bowling Green Republican, said referees could be liable if they neglect to remove a player who ends up having a severe concussion.
“God forbid something did happen to an athlete and there was a court cases. If this language was in here, all of the sudden that official becomes liable for not doing what they think is reasonable under this particular language.”
The bill now heads to the full House. Denham said he will work with the Kentucky High School Athletic Association to address their concerns.