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On January 1, 2017, the KHI News Service became part of KCUR public radio’s new initiative, the Kansas News Service. The Kansas News Service will continue to cover health policy news and broaden its scope to include education and politics. All stories produced by the former KHI News Service are archived here. Stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to

Concussion bill survives second round in House

By Allison Kite | February 23, 2016

A bill expanding the list of medical professionals who can clear high school athletes for play after a concussion is headed to the Kansas Senate after passing the House this week.

But the close vote and reservations that some House members expressed about the bill suggest it may not sail through.

One day after passing House Bill 2578 by a 73-51 tally, House members took the rare step of reconsidering their vote on the measure that would allow chiropractors to clear athletes.

The House voted again Tuesday after Rep. Rick Billinger, a Goodland Republican, made a motion to reconsider so he could change his “yea” vote to “nay.”

Billinger said the specialty of the doctor who treats concussions is important in getting high-quality care.

“If one of my children or grandchildren had heart problems, I’d go to a cardiologist. That’s where I’d take them,” Billinger said. “If they had cancer, I’d take them to the oncologist. I think if they had a head injury, they ought to go see a neurologist. I just think we should be looking at specialty on these type of situations.”

Five legislators switched their “yea” votes to “no” Tuesday, but Rep. Mike Kiegerl switched to vote for the bill and Rep. John Ewy, who was absent Monday during the first vote, also voted yes. On its second vote the bill passed 70-53.

The bill would allow chiropractors to perform the required sign-off before allowing student athletes to return to practice and play. That responsibility currently is reserved for medical doctors or doctors of osteopathic medicine.

Chiropractors in Kansas can diagnose and treat concussions. Bryan Payne, a representative of the Kansas Chiropractic Association, and other proponents of the bill who testified Feb. 4 before the House Committee on Health and Human Services said that requiring student athletes to see a doctor is an undue burden if they have been treated by a chiropractor.

Payne told the committee that in some small communities across Kansas, chiropractors are the only doctors, which means families may have to drive long distances to get clearance from a medical doctor.

“This bill is not meant to rush players back to play. This bill is about allowing a medical professional the ability to do their jobs that they were trained to do.”

- Rep. Blake Carpenter, a Republican from Derby

Rep. John Doll, a Garden City Republican who voted against the bill during the House vote, said convenience isn’t the primary consideration when considering treatment for a head injury.

“If it’s an inconvenience for them to have to drive somewhere to go see a doctor — I live in the most remote part of Kansas, so I have to leave the city — that’s OK when you’re talking about a kid’s brain,” he said. “So that’s why I voted the way I voted.”

Doll, who has coached youth sports, said his vote against the bill was informed by some of the things he saw on the field, including one football player who got up after a big hit, took about 10 steps toward him and collapsed. Doll said the vote was one of the proudest he has made while in the Legislature.

During committee debate, many legislators expressed concern that chiropractors don’t have sufficient medical education to decide whether a concussed student is safe to play again. Chiropractors and their patients said that chiropractors are qualified to deal with concussions and the spinal injuries that can accompany them.

When the bill was reconsidered Tuesday by the full House, Rep. Blake Carpenter, a Republican from Derby, sought to assure his colleagues it would not put student athletes at risk.

“This bill is not meant to rush players back to play,” Carpenter said. “This bill is about allowing a medical professional the ability to do their jobs that they were trained to do.”

Rep. Amanda Grosserode, a Republican from Lenexa, noted that current law does not require an examination by a neurologist or other head injury specialist before an athlete returns to play.

Opponents of the bill argued that the responsibility to return athletes to play should be reserved for physicians because they are the most highly trained medical professionals.