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Ohio health site offers info on youth concussions

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Ohio Department of Health is posting information online to help youth sports referees, coaches and volunteers comply with new rules aimed at protecting young athletes.

A new state law taking effect this spring will require coaches in Ohio's youth sports leagues to have players who show concussion-like symptoms sit out games or practices until they're checked and cleared by a doctor or licensed health care provider. The changes also require that coaches know more about concussions and how to spot warning signs and that parents review and sign information sheets about brain injuries.

The rules apply to youth sports organizations outside of the Ohio High School Athletic Association schools, which have their own guidelines.

Information posted last week through the Department of Health website provides information about identifying and dealing with concussions. It includes links to free training to help coaches and referees recognize symptoms such as clumsy movements, forgetfulness, loss of consciousness, headaches or balance problems.

"We anticipate this information will give all those associated with youth sports the time and direction to implement the bill at no cost," said Rep. Michael Stinziano, a Columbus Democrat who helped sponsor the bill.

The measure required the state to provide online information and training before the changes take effect in late April.

The legislation, spurred by evidence about the dangers of head injuries, was signed into law by Gov. John Kasich in December. It adds Ohio to the list of more than two dozen states restricting young athletes' participation after head injuries.

Doctors and health care groups that supported the measure say young athletes are most vulnerable to damaging head injuries because their brains are still developing.

Emergency room visits for sports-related traumatic brain injuries for young athletes more than doubled between 2002 and 2010, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

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Online:

Youth sports concussion guidelines and safety requirements: http://www.healthyohioprogram.org/concussion.aspx

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