In theory, Tennessee Senate Bill 882, which was passed during the summer and goes into effect Jan. 1, 2014, is a positive move to protect the state's young athletes.
In reality, thanks in part to a lack of resources and an admitted inability to enforce the legislation, there is little to stand on.
The purpose of the bill is to educate on the dangers of concussions by requiring that all coaches, whether employed or volunteer, go through a head injury safety education course developed by the Tennessee Department of Health.
The law includes all schools in the state, excluding institutes of higher education, as well as "any city, county, business or non-profit organization that organizes a community-based youth athletic activity for which an activity fee is charged."
The blanket cast by the bill covers nearly every youth sports team in the state, including any traveling teams that charge a fee to join, which is where enforcement becomes an issue. The shear number of teams that fall under the bill but are not affiliated with a school or parks and recreation department leaves a lot of leg work in making sure training happens.
State Sen. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, said it simply won't occur.
"The purpose of putting the rules in are mainly so people are informed and people are educated about the problems associated with concussions that occur during a sporting event," McNally said. "The state's not going to actually be out fining people. It's just something that's more of an encouragement that people should do to provide for the safety of individuals in sports.
"We're not going to be fining people and we're certainly not going to be throwing people in jail who are not aware of the rules or forget about them or something like that," McNally said.
State Sen. Jim Tracy, who sponsored the bill, said the approach is really one of hoping everyone does what the bill asks.
"We can't enforce it totally," he said.
Tracy put the responsibility of making sure coaches have training on the parents of those involved, which is why the bill also requires players and parents to review "a concussion and head injury information sheet."
But putting that information into the hands of the parents is not as easy as those that wrote the bill may think.
Lenoir City Parks and Recreation Director Steve Harrelson said getting the information was a difficult process.
"When I first heard about it and started doing my own research," Harrelson said, "I started calling the state health department trying to find some more information, more specifics and do you all already have documentation written or forms maybe we could use as part of our program? I talked to 10 different people and never did find someone who really knew anything about it."
Both Tracy and McNally suggested going to the Department of Health for more information, but Tracy also acknowledged that resources for training coaches and parents in concussions will likely not be provided on the website until sometime in December, just before the bill goes into effect.
"They're mandating stuff but then not being very proactive in telling us what we need to do," Lenoir City High School Athletic Director Greg Boling said.
Loudon High School athletic director Ronald Roberts said the school is weighing different options on providing training to coaches, but does not expect much to change in how the school approaches the subject, which is to have the athletic trainer make the final call on whether a student-athlete can play. Such action is already mandated by the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association.
"That puts a lot of pressure on a coach that is not trained in the medical field," Roberts said. "You don't want to endanger a young student's well-being because of a decision you made. Coaches aren't medically trained to do that."
In terms of the state's legislation and how it will influence high schools, it appears to be more directed at schools that do not have an athletic trainer on site, which is about 32 percent of Tennessee high schools.
Athletic trainers for schools around Loudon County are provided by area orthopedic clinics. If not for Knoxville Orthopaedic Clinic providing Doug Merrifield, Boling doubts Lenoir City would have an athletic trainer.
"The goal of the (National Athletic Trainers' Association) this summer was to have a trainer at every high school in the United States," Merrifield said. "I'm not trying to be pessimistic, but you think of a rural school, unless you get a teacher who is an athletic trainer and that's hard to do. That goal of having an athletic trainer at every high school is a good goal, but ..."
Tracy said the new legislation has little influence on high schools beyond what is already required by TSSAA.
"Basically all it does is if you have concussion-like symptoms and they think it's a concussion, the doctor's got to put you back in the ball game," Tracy said.