With firsthand experience of the increasing speed of youth sports, State Sen. Sue Rezin is working to help young people who suffer concussions.
Sen. Rezin is co-sponsoring Senate Bill 7, also known as the “return to learn” bill, a bi-partisan piece of legislation spearheaded by Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) to require schools to develop policies and procedures to help young athletes and non-athletes who suffered a concussion return to the classroom. Doctors would have to clear a student before he or she could return to the classroom or participate in athletics. The legislation would also require school districts, based on their resources, to create a concussion oversight team consisting of coaches, trainers, and medical professionals and requires schools to create an emergency action plan in the case of a serious injury.
“My son Zach has had three concussions in his young life, all happening on the football field,” Sen. Rezin said. “We need to address how our kids can successfully return to the classroom after a concussion because I saw it firsthand with Zach, how challenging it was for him to focus and absorb information.”
“With each concussion, it was harder and harder to return,” Zach Rezin said. “My first concussion, my junior year in high school, I was out of school for two weeks. My second concussion, which happened my senior year, was an even bigger challenge. My third concussion, in my freshman year of college, required me to take a medical leave of absence from school. Because of all this, I had to stop playing.”
Senate Bill 7 passed the Senate unanimously April 30 and now heads to the House of Representative for consideration. The legislation would impact elementary, middle, and high schools.
“After my third concussion, when I tried to go to class, I would feel like I was trapped and a little pain would turn into a lot of pain,” Zach Rezin said. “I would start to get double vision. I would have to leave the room. When speaking, I would have to really think about what I would want to say, instead of just naturally saying it. So I went home to take it easy.”
“This legislation is so important because we often forget about how difficult it is for young people who have these head injuries to simply study or take notes,” Sen. Rezin said. “Zach’s injuries were not only stressful and emotionally draining for him, but for our family and his friends. His studies are more important than sports. Families I speak with share the same sentiments. All four of my kids played sports since the third grade and three of my four kids were college athletes. This is a serious issue that needs a proactive approach.”
“I’m still in the process of fully recovering,” Zach Rezin said. “I have to use different study techniques and note-taking because of the concussions. I can’t retain as much. It’s harder for me to remember information. However, I am making progress, and I do anticipate a full recovery. I’m just glad it isn’t worse.”
Zach returned to college in January and advises young football players to keep their head up when tackling and keep their equipment maintained.
“The counselor for Zach really helped him with his classes and identified what he was going through and talked to teachers,” Sen. Rezin said. “She was instrumental in showing me that having a plan in place for Zach’s reentry into the classroom was very important.”
The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) testified at the Statehouse this week in support of the legislation, as well as Tregg Duerson, the son of Dave Duerson, a former Chicago Bears defensive back who suffered head trauma from his playing days and who died in 2011.
Other supporters of Senate Bill 7 include the Illinois Athletic Trainers Association, the Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Illinois Department of Public Health, and Rush University Medical Center.