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Health of California’s College Athletes Would Be Focus of New State Panel

adam sonnett / flickr

adam sonnett / flickr

Just as the NCAA kicks-off its popular March Madness college basketball tournament, a California lawmaker has pitched a new state panel to oversee the health and safety of college athletes across the Golden State.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego, said her bill -- the Athlete Protection Act -- proposes to do what the NCAA has failed to.

“Despite the billions of dollars that college sports generate nationally, nobody’s watching out for the health and safety of the players,” Gonzalez told reporters on a conference call. “The NCAA has made it clear they don’t believe enforcing safety standards for their players is in their responsibility. And that’s shameful.”

The National Collegiate Athletic Association, or NCAA, regulates athletes at more than 1,200 colleges nationwide. It did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Under Gonzalez’s bill, AB 1435, a state commission would be responsible for ensuring colleges maintain accurate medical records for athletes and making sure those records are available to athletes.

The commission would be authorized to charge colleges a fee to cover its costs. Gonzalez did not have a cost estimate for the legislation.

Her spokesman said the lawmaker is working with the National College Players Association on the bill, but has not spoken with the NCAA.

Ramogi Huma is a former UCLA football player who now heads the National College Players Association.

Huma said the commission would help prevent what he calls a pattern of college coaches forcing athletes to play with significant injuries.

“College athletes put their lives in the hands of coaches who may be more concerned with their next win than the player’s health even when it deals with the serious risk of traumatic brain injury,” Huma said on the conference call.  

Gonzalez, who was a cheerleader at Stanford University, said she’s “by no means trying to get rid of college sports.”

She added: “We need to start protecting athletes.”

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