DENVER - Young athletes in Colorado schools are getting protections from concussions with new guidelines for coaches and an agricultural tax break is going away as a handful of new laws take effect Jan. 1.
The rules addressing youth concussions require coaches to bench players as young as 11 when it's believed they've suffered a head injury, and players will need medical clearance before returning to the field. The new guidelines also require coaches in public and private schools to take free annual online training to recognize concussion symptoms.
Dozens of other states have enacted similar laws with the support of the NFL, which has helped craft legislation or endorsed local measures in recent years, as the issue of concussions has continued to garner national attention.
Colorado's law, which Gov. John Hickenlooper signed in March, has been touted as one of the most sweeping because a lot of other states with measures meant to protect young athletes don't cover athletes as young as 11 and only require concussion training for school-related athletic programs. Colorado's training guidelines will also apply to coaches in public and private schools and volunteer Little League and Pop Warner football coaches.
"I think through this legislation, future NFL players and coaches will be well aware to look for the symptoms of a brain injury," said Republican state Sen. Nancy Spence, one of the sponsors of the legislation.
The bill was named after Jake Snakenberg, a Colorado high school football player who died in 2004 after he was hit during a game. His family said doctors told him his injury was likely compounded by a concussion he suffered in a previous game that went undiagnosed.
Colorado also is eliminating a tax break for small properties classified as agricultural that aren't being used for farming or ranching. The new law allows assessors to reclassify up to 2 acres of land to be taxed at a higher residential rate if the land isn't considered integral to an agricultural operation.
Supporters of the legislation said the goal is to prevent people from taking advantage of a tax break intended for farmers and ranchers.
"We're taking the steps to make sure that we pay the appropriate taxes, we have the appropriate exemptions," said Republican state Rep. Tom Massey, who sponsored the measure.
Under other new laws, health insurers that cover acupuncture treatments will have to accept claims by licensed acupuncturists. Also, educators working for the federal Women, Infants, and Children Supplemental Nutrition Program, known as WIC, will be required to report cases of child abuse and neglect.