DENVER (AP) – A requirement that youth athletic coaches receive increased training in recognizing concussions has cleared an important step in the Colorado Senate.

The Senate voted on a unanimous voice vote Monday to give preliminary approval to the training requirement supported by the NFL. The bill requires coaches, both paid and volunteer, to take free online or in-person training about recognizing concussions.

The Colorado High School Activities Association has already adopted these requirements for high school athletics. This bill extends that requirement to middle schools and non-school-based youth teams.

“This is a bill that will keep young athletes healthy and safe,” said Sen. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial.

Under the bill, which faces one more Senate vote before heading to the House, coaches would have to bench any athlete who shows signs of having a concussion in practices and games. The athlete wouldn’t be allowed to play or practice until cleared by a health-care practitioner. The Senate tweaked the bill to allow designated athletic trainers to also decide when an athlete can rejoin the game.

The concussion measure comes after increased concern that childhood concussions are going untreated, especially in football and girls’ soccer. The training requirement would apply to cheerleading coaches, too, who are also required to receive concussion training by the Colorado High School Activities Association.

Earlier this month, former Denver Bronco Ed McCaffrey visited the Capitol to lobby for the measure. Supporters said the training will be provided free by the Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado and won’t cost the state any money.

The concussion measure has wide support, but there is a little grumbling over liability for coaches.

The bill protects coaches who complete concussion training from liability lawsuits as long as the coaches aren’t “grossly negligent.” Republican Sen. Shawn Mitchell argued unsuccessfully that the liability waiver leaves out coaches who receive nominal payments, enough to report on income taxes but not enough to be considered either paid coaches or volunteers. Supporters said those in-between coaches are already covered and rejected Mitchell’s amendment.

Mitchell said he’ll try again to include semi-professional coaches when the Senate takes up the concussion measure one more time, though its passage appears certain. The measure also appears likely to cruise though the House, where it has bipartisan support.

– By Kristen Wyatt, AP Writer

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)


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