ATLANTA — Former Falcons kicker Matt Bryant can still remember taking a hit during an elementary school football game.
The sky turned yellow and he saw green dots. At 10 or 11, he didn’t recognize the incident as a possible concussion.
Now a father of seven children, Bryant is pushing for legislation in Georgia that would help educate young players and their parents, coaches and others about the dangers of concussions and the need to protect student-athletes from serious brain injury.
“I’ve probably had concussions and didn’t know it,” Bryant told a panel of Georgia House representatives in a hearing Thursday. “The whole education part of this is important.”
Lawmakers heard testimony from Bryant and former Falcons linebacker Buddy Curry in support of House Bill 673. The legislation is part of a national push by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NCAA President Mark Emmert, who are urging 19 governors to support similar proposals across the country.
Currently, 31 states already have such laws and another 14 are considering such legislation, which is modeled after Washington state’s 2009 “Zackery Lystedt Law,” named for a middle school football player who sustained brain damage after he suffered a concussion and returned to play.
That law requires that a player who shows signs of a concussion be removed from a game or practice, and bars the player from competing again until being cleared by a licensed health-care professional trained in concussion evaluation and management. The language for Georgia’s version of the bill is still being finalized.
Kenneth Edmonds, a spokesman for the National Football League, told the panel the bill could help prevent brain injuries and make play safer for young athletes, reinforcing the same rules as apply to professional players.
Curry, who played for the Falcons from 1980-87, told lawmakers that he suffered several concussions during his career.
“I can remember coming off the field in a daze, trying to figure out which sideline was my own ... and knowing my team needed me back on the field,” Curry said.
One or two plays later, he was putting his helmet back on and leaving the sidelines.
“It was a badge of honor ... to be the toughest guy on the block,” Curry said. “We gotta change that culture. This bill ensures that the proper people are making the decision.”