WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee that sets national health policy, and U.S. Representative Bill Pascrell, Jr. (N.J.-09) introduced bicameral legislation today to improve sports safety and protect student athletes from cardiac arrest, concussions, heat-related illness and other on-field or on-court medical emergencies.

The Supporting Athletes, Families, and Educators to Protect the Lives of Athletic Youth Act, or SAFE PLAY Act, is the most comprehensive federal legislation before Congress aimed at improving the safety of youth athletes and focuses on various sports safety issues, such as heat exposure, EMS training, cardiac conditions, concussion response, and energy drink consumption.

“Athletics are a key part of childhood and we want our children to participate in sports, compete, play and have fun, but we also want them to be safe. Young athletes and their parents must be assured that there are properly trained coaches, teachers, trainers and other personnel on the sidelines who are ready and equipped to respond to an injury or health emergency,” said Sen. Menendez. “Our SAFE PLAY Act will protect our kids and save lives by ensuring our schools have the resources and information they need to properly identify warning signs and respond in the event of a medical emergency during a game.”

“As our understanding of sports-related emergencies improves, so too must our response. Cardiac arrest, concussions, and heat exhaustion are just three of the many threats to our young athletes. It is on all of us to protect and preserve their health, and I am proud to introduce this legislation today to do exactly that,” said Rep. Pascrell, co-chair and founder of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force. “Our SAFE PLAY Act will help ensure that coaches, trainers, parents, and athletes are equipped with the proper resources to help treat and prevent sports-related injuries. I want to thank my friend Senator Bob Menendez for his leadership on this issue and I look forward to working with him to secure passage of our bill.”

The SAFE PLAY Act of 2020 builds upon legislation Sen. Menendez and Rep. Pascrell first introduced in response to a spate of serious athletic injuries and deaths in New Jersey and across the country, and language they had inserted in the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act to allow federal funding to be used to help states and school districts develop and implement student-athlete safety plans.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 30 million children across the U.S. participate in organized sports, 12 percent of those under 14 have been treated for a sports-related injury and 40 percent of those ages five to 14 have been treated in hospitals for sports-related injuries. Tragically, young athletes have suffered preventable fatal head injuries, strokes and cardiac arrests sustained during games.

The SAFE PLAY Act aims to prevent and improve the treatment of sports-related injuries and illnesses among youth athletes, including sudden cardiac arrest, heat stroke, and concussions by:

  • Directing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and CDC to develop and disseminate educational materials about high-risk cardiac conditions to school administrators, coaches, school health professionals, educators, families, and students;
  • Authorizing grants for educational agencies and schools to purchase AEDs and implement CPR and AED training courses;
  • Requiring educational agencies to develop and implement concussion safety action plans;
  • Directing the Secretary of Education, in consultation with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and HHS, to develop and disseminate educational materials to school administrators, coaches, school health professionals, educators, families, and students about excessive heat risks and safety recommendations;
  • Directing the CDC and the U.S. Department of Education to develop guidelines for emergency action plans for youth athletics;
  • Directing the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and CDC to develop and disseminate guidelines about safe energy drink consumption for youth athletes;
  • Directing the CDC to expand research on the safety of youth athletes, and to report findings to Congress.

A full section-by-section summary of the bill can be viewed here.

"I am grateful we have congressional champions like Senator Menendez and Representative Pascrell who are taking the necessary steps to prevent unnecessary deaths on the playing field. The SAFE PLAY Act includes both primary and secondary prevention measures, which can help reduce the number of fatalities from cardiac arrests,” said Lisa Yue, founding executive director of the Children's Cardiomyopathy Foundation.

The SAFE PLAY Act has broad support from leading sports safety advocates and organizations:

"Parents are the biggest sports fans, especially when their kids are playing. The SAFE PLAY Act will assure parents that their children have access to trained and knowledgeable coaches and trainers, allowing parents to spend more time cheering and less time worrying. Sports Fans Coalition thanks Senator Menendez and Representative Pascrell for their leadership and advocacy for youth athletes,” said Sports Fans Coalition Executive Director Brian Hess.

"PINK Concussions is strongly in favor of the SAFE PLAY Act,” said Katherine Snedaker, CEO and Founder of PINK Concussions. “This legislation is needed to empower schools to develop equitable and effective concussion programs for staff and students whether the concussion occurs during a football game, a gym class, at recess or in the school hallway. School-wide awareness of the signs of brain injury, appropriate action plans, and concussion management teams are essential to support the recovery of both boys and girls.”