Miller, injured police officer lead discussion on concussion bill

MT. LEBANON, May 18 – Joined by the Pennsylvania State Police trooper whose work history sparked the legislation, state Rep. Dan Miller today explained how his H.B. 1176 would protect the health of law enforcement officers by establishing a concussion and head injury protocol for them.

At a news conference held at the Mt. Lebanon Public Safety Building, Miller, D-Mt. Lebanon, was flanked by Trooper William J. “Bill” Feineigle Jr. and other supporters of the initiative, including state Rep. Dom Costa, D-Allegheny.

“It is appropriate that we are discussing this bill during National Police Week, since our mutual goal is to protect law enforcement officers who suffer or who may have suffered a head impact or head injury while on the job,” Miller said. “The story of the man we call ‘Trooper Bill’ offers a compelling reason why this bill should become law.”

Miller said that Feineigle, who currently works out of the Troop B station in Washington on limited-duty status in the Firearm and Tracking Unit, received two head injuries while on the job, a year apart, in 2002 and 2003.

“He suffered from ‘second hit syndrome.’ He did not realize that he had the first injury, and after the second one he was put on light duty,” Miller said. “He spent two years in neurological rehab, and had to fight to get his job back afterwards.”

Miller said because Feineigle couldn’t drive the one-hour commute to his old troop station because of his symptoms, he was transferred to a closer one in Washington.

House Bill 1176, which Miller introduced after hearing of Feineigle’s experience, would direct the Pennsylvania State Police – in consultation with the Pennsylvania Sheriffs’ Association, union representatives of law enforcement officers, the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, and appropriate state agencies that have expertise in the area of traumatic brain injury – to develop a concussion protocol to be used by all police departments.

Costa, a former Pittsburgh police chief, commended Miller for his foresight in understanding the importance of this issue, noting that brain trauma and concussions are not limited to athletes or sports-related injuries.

“Looking at my past career, I’ve seen many, many public safety or law enforcement officers who’ve sustained head injuries and concussions. But the macho thing was, ‘I’m OK’ and they shook it off, instead of having someone say, ‘It’s not OK, you must get checked’ for their own safety.

“With these types of injuries, knowing anything sooner is better, so you can limit the negative effects of it and help prevent further injury. So this was a great, great thought on Representative Miller’s part. And the police I’ve talked to are well on board with this idea.”

Other speakers included Gaetano Sanchioli, president of the Pennsylvania Athletic Trainers’ Society and on-site licensed athletic trainer at UPMC Sports Medicine, who said his profession helped developed concussion protocols for student-athletes, coaches, physicians and nurses, among others, and looks forward to doing the same for law enforcement.

“Education is by far the best prevention of long-term consequences of concussion,” Sanchioli said. “Understanding the symptoms and having protocols that remove a person from physical activity and potential re-injury can ultimately reduce further complications.”

Supported by the Pennsylvania Fraternal Order of Police, Miller’s bill was unanimously approved by the House Health Committee on May 9 and now awaits action by the full House.