Lauren Caruso is only 18, but she’s already endured more pain than some people will experience in a lifetime.
While battling occasional headaches and dizziness, she’s also helped bring about change.
Yesterday, the recent Timberlane Regional High School graduate was in Concord where Gov. John Lynch signed a bill into law that protects student-athletes such as Caruso from concussions and other head injuries.
It was the Danville teen’s battle with concussions and her determination to help others that helped pave the way for the new law.
Caruso was only 14 when she was severely injured during lacrosse practice at Timberlane in 2009. She fell and suffered a second concussion not long after when a classmate pulled a chair away as she was sitting down.
Since then, the teenager’s life has been plagued by missed school, headaches and memory loss. She has told her life story to the New Hampshire Legislature, leading to the passage of Senate Bill 402 earlier this year.
The bill’s prime sponsor was Sen. Matthew Houde, D-Plainfield, a former high school football player who wanted to help protect young athletes. Another strong supporter was Rep. Rick Ladd, R-Haverhill. Both were on hand for the signing ceremony yesterday.
The new law requires that a student-athlete suspected of having a concussion be removed from a game or practice immediately. The young athlete would only be allowed to play again if evaluated by a doctor and given written authorization to return. Information about these injuries also must be given to all youth athletes each year. Parents would have to sign forms indicating they read the information before the start of practice or competition.
School districts are also required to develop policies for dealing with student-athletes who receive concussions.
Caruso said after the ceremony yesterday she was glad to see the bill finally become law.
“It’s very important to me that other people won’t have to go through what I had to go through,” she said.
Caruso’s injuries caused her to miss three-quarters of her sophomore year in school and one-third of her junior year, she said. But she was able to make up what she missed and graduated with her class in June.
Caruso will enroll at UMass Lowell this fall and major in nursing, allowing her to continue to help others.
But she still suffers from the lingering effects of her concussions.
“I still have confusion and memory issues,” she said. “I get headaches once in awhile. It’s harder to remember things.”
Although Caruso said it was a thrill to meet the governor and other lawmakers yesterday, she got a chance to make her own speech.
“Though all of us are very grateful to now have this New Hampshire concussion law, many believe that this is only the first step,” she said. “I hope to be a participant in the next tier of concussion legislation in efforts to strengthen this law to include lower grades and rec sports.”
Caruso also thanked those who helped make the new law possible, especially Houde.
“By codifying in statute the current policy of the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association,” he said, our hope is to reduce the risks to the student-athlete — both from further injury on the field and from negative effects on being able to learn in the classroom.”
While driving to the ceremony, Ladd said he passed young soccer players in front yards.
“I feel very thankful that my grandchildren, who are involved (in sports) will be playing with this statute in place,” he said.
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.