Protecting the brain

State Rep. Dan Miller addresses the media, along with Pa. State Trooper William “Bill” Feineigle Jr. and athletic trainer Gaetano Sanchioli. State Rep. Dom Costa also spoke about the bill, which calls for a concussion protocol for members of law enforcement.

When a 14-year-old takes a blow to the head during a soccer game, the game comes to a halt while the injured player is escorted off the field. The player cannot return until a concussion protocol is completed. When members of local law enforcement suffer head injuries, there is nothing in place to ensure their safety in the workforce afterwards.

“A police officer who receives the same head injury is told to suck it up, put that uniform on and get back out there. They are told they have a job to do,” said Pa. State Police Trooper Bill Feineigle Jr. Feineigle works out of the Troop B station in Washington on limited-duty status. He received two head injuries on the job in 2002 and 2003 that required him to complete almost two years of neurological rehab.

After hearing Feineigle’s story, state Rep. Dan Miller is now working to get his H.B. 1176 on the governor’s desk. Miller held a press conference today at the Mt. Lebanon Public Safety Building highlighting what the bill would accomplish. The bill would develop a concussion protocol to be used by all police departments as well as other law enforcement units. “We want to make sure everyone goes home okay,” Miller says.

Former Pittsburgh Chief of Police Dom Costa, who is now a State Rep. who serves the 21st district, showed his support. Costa joked that he didn’t know why he didn’t think of it himself. He believes the bill is good and needed, saying we are used to the days of being told to “rub some dirt on it.”

Feineigle emphasized that many other members of law enforcement have stories similar to his. “This bill isn’t about me. It’s about officers whose careers were cut short due to a head injury. This bill is about the current officers on the front lines and the future officers yet to come,” Feineigle said.

Miller would like to ensure that the proper documentation of a head injury is also kept on file if any symptoms of a concussion were to appear years later. “If you get a blow to the head on duty, you are taken care of,” Miller said.

Miller’s bill is supported by the Pennsylvania Fraternal Order of Police and was unanimously approved by the House Health Committee on May 9. The next step for Miller is to get the bill onto the House floor. If passed, the bill will move to the senate and then land on the desk of governor Tom Wolf. Miller says the bill requires the protocol to be finalized in six months after being passed.