DENVER Youth athletes with suspected concussions would need medical approval to return to their sport under a bill the House passed Monday.
The Senate has already passed Senate Bill 40. If it agrees with some changes the House made last week, the bill will go to Gov. John Hickenlooper for final approval.
The Denver Broncos and National Football League support the bill, which is similar to bills the NFL is pushing in other states.
Supporters say that new research shows youth concussions are much more dangerous and potentially deadlier than previously thought.
When in doubt, keep em out, said Rep. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora, one of the sponsors.
Former Broncos stars Ed McCaffrey and Billy Thompson went to the Capitol last month to speak for the bill. The NFL, battling a storm of bad publicity over long-term damage its players have suffered from concussions, sent a top executive to testify for SB 40.
Between 1,500 and 2,500 young athletes go to Colorado emergency rooms each year to be treated for concussions, Todd said.
SB 40 applies to all types of sports, both in school and out of school. It requires coaches to complete an online class in concussion safety, and if athletes show signs of a concussion, they have to be pulled out of competition and cant return until they are cleared by a doctor or nurse practitioner.
The bill passed Monday on a thin margin, 35-27, with the support of seven Republicans and all but two Democrats.
Locally, Republicans J. Paul Brown of Ignacio and Don Coram of Montrose voted against it.
Coram said that as a survivor of a traumatic brain injury, he had mixed emotions on the bill, but he opposed it because it might discourage people from coaching youth sports, and a lack of coaches could become a problem in small counties.
Although SB 40 passed unanimously in a House committee hearing last week, opponents peeled off votes on the House floor by raising concerns about lawsuits against coaches.
It opens up a liability for people doing a volunteer job, said Rep. Jon Becker, R-Fort Morgan.
Reach Joe Hanel at firstname.lastname@example.org.