Nutley. - U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-8) and U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), both sponsors of legislation aimed at protecting student athletes from the dangers of sports-related concussions, made a major announcement today on young athletes' safety. The two federal lawmakers announced that in response to their request to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius in February the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has agreed to implement a major component of their legislation.

"We used to see concussions as minor injuries that didn't necessitate much medical attention. What we now know about the brain has now helped us all to see that every concussion is brain damage, and that we must do more to protect our children," said Pascrell, co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force. "Today, we are here to announce one result of our efforts, as the CDC has agreed to implement the key provision of the ConTACT Act by forming an expert panel to define the need, scope, and expectations of these federal guidelines for student athletes. The guidelines that the CDC would develop will take in advice from experts across the country, laying the foundation for all 50 states to implement a standard and protect our young athletes."

"Since we first introduced our legislation we've heard many heartbreaking stories about the permanent brain damage suffered by professional athletes as a result of concussions in the past," said Menendez. "I'm pleased the CDC has responded to our request and will pull together the best science and come up with the best guidelines possible for prevention and treatment of traumatic brain injury on the field. This fall - when parents are watching their sons and daughters play playing their hearts out, we want them to know that everything possible is being done - and has been done -- to prevent a life-changing injury on the field."

Congressman Pascrell and Senator Menendez were both primary sponsors of the Concussion Treatment and Care Tools (ConTACT) Act in the House and Senate, respectively.The legislation provides for national protocols to be established for managing sports-related concussions for student athletes from the 5th grade to the 12th grade. The legislation passed the U.S. House of Representatives in September 2010.

Pascrell originally introduced the ConTACT Act following the tragic death of Montclair High School football player Ryne Dougherty in October 2008.

In response to Rep. Pascrell's and Sen. Menendez's request in February the CDC is bringing together an expert panel to work towards developing guidelines for student athletes.

The CDC has notified the lawmakers that it will convene the expert panel during the next year. A draft timetable describes a path where pediatric MTBI (mild traumatic brain injury) guidelines and recommendations are expected to be finalized by Fall 2013.