Carson High senior advocates for concussion legislation through SB 80

Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 5:32 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Back in 2011, Nevada passed AB 455 which protected student-athletes after a head injury.

“Right now, as it stands most concussion protocols are focused solely on the student-athlete,” said Adam Hunsaker, an athletic trainer and teacher at Carson High School.

But SB 80 would change that. The bill was proposed by Carson High School senior Stella Thornton, a youth legislator.

“I’m hoping that everyone will be able to be prioritized, be able to have equal accommodations,” Thornton said.

She created this bill for others just as much as she did for herself.

“I was outside of school riding one of my horses and they happened to have a freak accident,” she explained.

In her junior year of high school, Thornton was bucked off of her horse and suffered a concussion.

“I luckily had my helmet on, or else I wouldn’t be standing here today,” she said.

After a couple weeks away from school, she needed accomodations to come back to the classroom.

“I needed to be able to have sunglasses or different glasses,” Thornton said.

“I needed ear plugs and a hat and at that time, at Carson High School you were not allowed to wear a hat in school.”

Thornton said it was difficult for teachers and staff to understand her nearly invisible struggle.

As her health slowly improved, Thornton spent her time doing research and eventually wrote SB 80.

Her bill was chosen out of a pool of youth bills to be presented.

“Everybody is at risk of receiving concussions just by living our daily lives, there’s car accidents, there’s tripping and falling while you’re hiking, there’s roughousing with your siblings at home,” said Hunsaker.

Hunsaker testified at the Senate hearing in favor of SB 80 because he sees the need for this change professionally. But he also says he cares about this bill because of Thornton’s personal battle.

“Her passion is kind of infectious and she has a good way at motivating people to get behind this issue,” he said.

If this bill passes, all students would be afforded ‘Return to Learn’ and ‘Return to Play’ policies after a head injury, regardless of their athletic status.

Now, Thornton waits for a hearing before the Assembly Committee on Education.

“From there, hopefully the Governor will sign it into law and I’m very excited to go on this journey,” she said.