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Does your “life outside of the office” include coaching or serving as a game official for youth sports? If the answer is yes, you should be aware of the requirements that will be imposed on youth sports coaches and officials by Ohio’s recently passed Return to Play law (Ohio Revised Code Section 3707.511).

Ohio’s Return to Play law, which becomes effective on April 26, 2013, was created to protect children from the effects of concussions and head injuries incurred while participating in organized interscholastic or youth sports activities. The Return to Play law applies to any person coaching or officiating interscholastic sports or youth sports for a youth sports organization in the State of Ohio. The Return to Play law is broadly drafted to include coaches or officials, even those under the age of 18, regardless of whether they are paid or volunteers. A youth sports organization (hereinafter a “Youth League”) is also broadly defined as any public or nonpublic entity that organizes athletic activities in which the athletes are not more than 19 years old and are required to pay a fee to participate in the athletic activity or whose cost to participate is sponsored by a business or nonprofit organization.

If you are an official in a Youth League, ensuring compliance with the Return to Play law should be at the top of your Youth League’s Spring or Summer agenda. Here are some of the key requirements of the Return to Play law:

  1. Youth League officials must notify their coaches and officials of the applicability of the Return to Play law and inform their coaches and officials of their obligation to obtain required on-line training regarding concussions from an Ohio Department of Health approved program. There is an exception if the coach or official holds an Ohio Department of Education Pupil Activity Permit (for interscholastic coaches and officials), in which case the training will not be required until the renewal of the Ohio Pupil Activity Permit. The on-line training takes less than an hour and, once completed, is effective for three years.
  2. The Youth League is required to distribute to the parents or guardians of each Youth League participant a Department of Health prepared information sheet that provides information for parents regarding symptoms, treatment and recovery from concussions. The information sheet also outlines the steps to return to play following a player’s removal from participation by a coach or official.
  3. Coaches, game officials and Youth League officials supervising activities must remove a child from play if the child displays signs of having incurred a concussion or describes symptoms of a concussion or head injury to the coach, game official or league official.
  4. Once removed from play, coaches, game officials and league officials may not allow any further participation by the child that day (even if the child is cleared to return by a physician).
  5. Children removed from play can not be reinstated for practices or games until cleared in writing by a physician or another Youth League approved medical professional.

Coaching or refereeing at the interscholastic level in Ohio

The requirements of the Return to Play law are very similar for interscholastic athletics, with two notable differences: First, the parental information sheet must be signed and returned before the student can begin participation. Second, the on-line training requirement is tied to the renewal of your Ohio Department of Education Pupil Activity Permit. The on-line training must be done prior to your next Pupil Activity Permit renewal. The requirements of the Return to Play law regarding removal from play and clearance to return are similar to the requirements for Youth Leagues.

As the primary Ohio governmental organization charged with implementing the Return to Play law, the Ohio Department of Health has made some excellent materials available (including a FAQ sheet) that explains the requirements of the Return to Play law.

Ohio Department of Health's Return to Play website:



 Other helpful links

 Information Sheet (Youth Sports) for use by Youth Leagues in Ohio. There is a different version for interscholastic sports.

Ohio Department of Health approved on-line courses

National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS):

Center for Disease Control (CDC):

The completion of either of the courses will require between 30-45 minutes of your time.

The NFHS course requires creation of an NFHS account that can be accessed at a later date. Although you are required to “order” the NFHS course, it is free. Upon completion, a certificate will be posted to your NFHS Coach Education account and can be printed. Completion of the CDC course is not tracked as easily as the NFHS course is in the future through your account. The only record of completion is the certificate, which can only be printed immediately following the CDC course. It must be printed or otherwise electronically stored by the individual coach or game official for future use. Both courses offer an excellent array of additional resources for use by coaches and officials through links from the course.

Ohio’s Return to Play law is consistent with a law originally passed in the State of Washington frequently referred to as the “Lystedt Law”. The Lystedt Law is named for Zackery Lystedt, a youth concussion victim who suffered permanent disability following a severe concussion incurred during a youth football game. The Lystedt Law, promoted by many as a model for laws addressing concussions and appropriate return to play, refers to any law that includes the following three elements:

  1. The annual distribution of information regarding concussions to coaches, officials and parents
  2. Removal from play of any athlete showing signs of or displaying symptoms of a concussion
  3. Medical clearance prior to allowing the athlete to return to play

Following passage of the original Lystedt Law in Washington, many parties, including the National Football League, lobbied for the passage of Lystedt Laws throughout the United States. Currently, 43 states and Washington, D.C. have enacted concussion return to play laws (or have legislation pending to enact a Return to Play law). The vast majority of these laws follow the Lystedt Law model, including the return to play laws enacted in other states such as Michigan, Illinois and Florida.

For more information, please contact:

G. Andrew Gardner


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