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Support physical therapists to assist in treatment of head injuries sustained by student athletes in AZ

SB 1521 too narrowly defines health care providers and limits capable and knowledgeable Physical Therapists from assisting in such injury cases.

Heidi Jannenga
5 min read
March 7, 2011
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SB 1521 too narrowly defines health care providers and limits capable and knowledgeable Physical Therapists from assisting in such injury cases. Contact a representative today to ammned the bill.

The AzPTA State Government Affairs team has been monitoring SB 1521; Schools; head injury policies; athletics - a bill thatrequires school district governing boards to implement policies and procedures regarding concussions and head injuries of students participating in school-sponsored athletic activities. Specifically, this bill:

1. Directs school district governing boards to consult with a statewide private entity that supervises interscholastic activities to develop guidelines, information, and forms to educate coaches, students, and parents about the dangers of concussions and head injuries and the risks of continued sports play after a concussion;

2. Instructs school district governing boards to enforce a concussion policy that addresses risk awareness and appropriate response procedures;

3. Applies the provisions of the bill to any group or organization that uses school district property for athletic purposes, except out-of-state teams;

4. Specifies that a volunteer health care provider who clears a student athlete to participate in an athletic activity is immune from civil liability with respect to good-faith decisions made and actions taken.

However, the current version of SB 1521 narrowly defines "health care provider" asa physician, an athletic trainer, a nurse practitioner, or a physician assistant. The AzPTA is lobbying to broaden this definition to include physical therapists based on the following:

  • PTs routinely participate in high school athletic programs and youth sportsprograms throughout the state. This involvement includes the prevention of injuries through performance enhancement, injury prevention and safety programs in the off season, injury assessment, rehabilitation and return to competition following athletic injury.
  • PTs have education in neuroscience and assessment of neurological function, balance and vestibular system. This education is required by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) as entry level requirement to be eligible for licensure.
  • PTs perform examination, treatment and research in areas related to concussion and mild traumatic brain injury.
  • PTs work as part of health professional teams with physicians, athletic trainers, psychologists and others to develop effective and safe recovery programs for return to sport after a wide range of injuries or conditions.  
  • Concussion and MTBI management and treatment is evolving. Currently, the model used in the US military for MTBI incorporates the physical therapist in the assessment and treatment of concussion, as well as clinical research. Research with physical therapists is ongoing to develop normative data and outcome measures for children and adults with post concussion syndrome.
  • Pending federal legislation, (HR 469) Protecting Student Athletes from Concussions Act of 2011, defines health care professional more broadly, including physicians, nurses, ATCs, PTs, and neuropsychologists.

Representative Heather Carter is willing to run an amendment to SB 1521 that would open the definition of health care provider to include those who have been trained in the evaluation and management of concussions.


On Friday, March 4 AzPTA members are urged to copy the following message in blue text below, title the message "Support for the Carter Amendment to SB 1521" in the Subject Line and email it to the Legislators listed below (the email addresses are active links:

"Please support Representative Heather Carter's amendment to SB 1521. In its current format, the bill defines too narrowly 'health care providers' in that it excludes physical therapists and other licensed health care providers who are qualified to participate in the management of injured student athletes and youth sport participants who may require treatment or assessment prior to returning to activity. Representative Carter's amendment would appropriately permit any licensed health care provider who has training in the evaluation and management of concussions and head injuries to make the proper determination."  

On Monday, March 7 AzPTA members are urged to call the Legislators listed below to relay the same message. 

Rep. Kimberly Yee (Phoenix)


Rep. Heather Carter (Cave Creek)


Rep. Steve Court (Mesa)


Rep. Chester Crandell (Heber)


Rep. John Fillmore (Apache Junction)


Rep. Terri Proud (Tucson)


Rep. Eric Meyer (Paradise Valley)


Rep. Lynne Pancrazi (Yuma)


Rep. Anna Tovar (Tolleson)


Email your questions to Cynthia Driskell, PT, GCS, State Government Affairs Committee Chair.


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