AUGUSTA — A pair of local lawmakers, both former fire chiefs, are supporting a bill that aims to protect school athletes from head injuries.

The bill, LD 1241, sponsored by Rep. Michel Lajoie, D-Lewiston, was heard before the Legislature’s Educational and Cultural Affairs Committee on Tuesday.

The bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Wayne Werts, D-Auburn, requires students from elementary school to high school to wear protective headgear while participating in most contact sports, including lacrosse, field hockey, snowboarding and skiing, starting in the 2014-15 school year.

Lajoie is the former fire chief in Lewiston and Werts is the former fire chief in Auburn. Werts also has more than 33 years of experience as a paramedic and is a former member of the Maine Emergency Medical Services Board.

The bill also requires Maine’s commissioner of education to create a working group to study head injuries of lacrosse and field hockey players and determine what other measures might be needed to prevent them in those sports.

“Sports-related injuries have the potential to be life-changing and debilitating,” Lajoie said in a prepared statement. “These students are at an important age for brain development and we ought to take steps that would prevent head injuries.”

According to information provided by the Sports Concussion Institute, there are between 1.6 and 3.8 million sports-related injuries resulting in concussions every year in the U.S., while an estimated 10 percent of high school athletes in contact sports suffer a concussion each season.

“Our youth deserve our best efforts to protect them from such injuries,” Werts said.

The bill will move to a work session before the committee in the weeks ahead.

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