Columbus Dispatch Editorial Against Chiropractors Ruling on Young Athletes’ Concussions

The following editorial appeared in the Columbus Dispatch on June 11, 2014

Legislative malpractice: Chiropractors shouldn’t be ruling on young athletes’ concussions

The Ohio legislature has ignored expert medical advice and put children at risk by opening the door for chiropractors to independently clear young athletes to resume play after they’ve suffered a concussion.Elected officials last week tucked the provision into a wide-ranging education bill not open to line-item veto by the governor.This is a terrible idea.Concussions are traumatic brain injuries. They require time to heal. Young people’s brains are still developing. A second impact, whipping the brain around again, can cause a lot more damage.

Chiropractors are experts at what they do, but that expertise does not extend to concussions.

The General Assembly leapt over common sense and science in yielding to chiropractors, weakening the state’s model law, which took effect last year. That law, the result of hours of expert testimony and debate at the Statehouse, protected injured youths by giving physicians ultimate authority over return-to-play decisions.

This new provision, having been killed before, was restored by the Senate into House Bill 487 and pushed through without testimony. It was a triumph of well-connected and high-priced lobbying over the well-being of children. It comes even as the dangers of concussion are being highlighted in collegiate and professional sports.

The legislature handed off to a committee the responsibility for determining minimum education standards for those who can grant clearance. And it left undefined the guidelines that will be used for clearing young athletes who have suffered a concussion. Three chiropractors and three doctors will be named to this panel, which appears to be a backdoor way for chiropractors to be granted authority to exceed their scope of practice.

The only way this can work is if the committee puts medical science ahead of politics. But this seems unlikely, with half the panel made up of chiropractors who likely will be eager to expand the reach of the chiropractic approach.

The provision also opens the door to any “licensed health-care professional” who might wish to evaluate concussed athletes. The committee could grant return-to-play decisions to dental hygienists, genetic counselors, psychologists, radiologist technicians and even dieticians, to name a few.

It’s not hard to imagine a teenager eager to rejoin his or her team — or a parent dreaming of college scholarships — shopping for someone to sign off. Or a parent or coach could be deceived into thinking any of these medical professionals is an expert in evaluating concussions and authorizing a child to resume play. While in medical school, doctors get more than 10,000 hours of clinical experience treating patients, including those with traumatic head injuries. No other training compares.

Those opposing this legislation include the Ohio State Medical Association, the Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association, the Ohio Hospital Association, the Ohio Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians, the Ohio Athletic Trainers Association, the Ohio Osteopathic Association and the Academy of Medicine of Cleveland and Northern Ohio. Also adding warnings are leading physicians from the Cleveland Clinic and Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

By ignoring the best medical advice, the General Assembly endangers the health and safety of Ohio’s children.