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Legislators debate concussion training for youth sports coaches

WBFO News file photo

Factions in the Erie County Legislature are arguing over how to do something about the problem of sports concussions among young people.

The fight was over a proposal from Legislator Patrick Burke to require training for coaches and other adults who work with kids about how to detect a possible concussion.

The Majority Caucus took over the plan and told Erie County to offer free training seminars which meet state rules. That turned into a disagreement between Burke and Majority Leader Joseph Lorigo, who attacked Burke for pushing classes that carry fees.

"Why on Earth are we going to charge people more fees when the classes are offered for free. Our resolution...says, here you go, we encourage you to take these classes. This is where they are. Not only are the classes online for free. Erie County is going to offer them for free. Legislator Burke would rather charge people and be able to fine them for non-compliance," Lorigo said.

Lorigo says there are plenty of leagues with rules and he doesn't see why there should be a charge for the classes when there are free classes available.

Burke said he underwent concussions in sports as a young person and doesn't want his kids to.

"We accept that sports are part of youth development and we need them. But we should take every precaution of ensure safety. I keep hearing this Republican argument [that] we're going to lose coaches and coaches aren't going to want to take a course in concussion training. I don't want a coach who's not willing to spend 20 minutes learning how to keep kids safe who are under their supervision," said Burke.

Legislator Barbara Miller-Williams said people don't know enough about concussions. She told the legislative session she recently suffered a concussion in a fall and it wasn't treated properly until she passed out in her office after a session.

The Buffalo Democrat said medical personnel then examined her more carefully and discovered a concussion.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.