Posted: Apr 27, 2013 8:49 PM by Derek Buerkle - MTN Sports
MISSOULA - Governor Steve Bullock signed Senate Bill 112 into law on Monday, defining how Montana's school sponsored sports must handle concussions.
Derek Buerkle went on special assignment to find out what the new law means, and why it's needed.
It's called the Dylan Steigers Protection of Youth Athletes Act, and was created to prevent the tragic story of how it got that name from ever happening again.
"I think all of us would have given anything to not actually have to have been there. The reason we were there was just so tragic and so sad," Dylan's mom, Cyndi Steigers said.
Dylan Steigers loved football, and would do whatever he could to get on the field. His passion led him to Eastern Oregon three years ago, but in a May scrimmage, the unthinkable happened.
"It was a very everyday tackle, so to speak. Before he got to the far sideline, they were having to help him off the field. I got over there in time to hear him say his last words basically. They asked him how old he was, and he said he was 21. And they were all excited that he knew how old he was. And I shook my head and said, no he's 22," Dylan's dad, Tom Steigers recalled.
The hit had ruptured a vein in Dylan's brain and he died the next day in a Boise hospital. Doctors could not confirm that Dylan's previous history of concussions had anything to do with his fatal injury, but Tom thinks it had to play a part.
His son returned to play sometimes immediately after suffering brain injuries, and now the act bearing his name tries to prevent other athletes from making the same mistake.
"So the person had a headache, the coach said ‘why don't you just take today off?'. And then they played the next day, or something like that. And research has shown that it takes seven to 10 days to recover from a concussion," explained UM athletic trainer JC Weida.
Weida helped create the Dylan Steigers Act, which focuses on four main prongs. Montana coaches, trainers and administrators must now be educated in concussions, they must remove athletes from play as soon as a brain injury occurs, they must assess the symptoms of the injury, and then an athlete must get clearance from a medical professional before they return to the field.
"Does it make maybe a little bit more of a work, or a little bit more of a hassle for administrators or something, you know maybe it does. But the truth is again, we're talking about protecting the brains of youth," Weida said.
The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 3.9 million sports related concussions occur every year in the U.S. Football does have the highest percentage, but other full contact sports - like hockey and lacrosse also rate very high. And one not far behind might surprise you."
Soccer also causes a high rate of concussions, especially girls soccer. That is why the Missoula Strikers coaches gathered on Monday at Peak Performance Physical Therapy to learn how to tell if one of their player suffers a concussion, and what they should do next.
"The parents might not know, probably don't know. If I wasn't a coach I wouldn't know. And before tonight, I didn't know a lot of this," Strikers coach Megan Wallner told us.
Meanwhile, for the Steigers, life moves on nearly three years after their tragedy - and now there's a new Dylan in the family. Cyndi and Tom's daughter Libby named her eight-month old son after her brother. With him and the new law bearing their name, the family has found peace.
"It is just such a positive place to put our grief. I think any parent who loses a child just wants to find a purpose in their life again. And this has given us a purpose," Cyndi concluded.
The purpose doesn't end here for the Steigers, and they have more work to do. Many supporters of the bill were upset the Montana legislature only made the law cover school-sponsored sports. During the next session, they hope to amend the bill to include all youth sports, including club athletics.