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Concussion Laws Requiring Medical Care Help Youth Athletes

concussionSports related concussions are the only injury in all of medicine with a legislative mandate requiring medical attention.  That mandate, which includes laws in all 50 states, has resulted in a 92 percent increase in concussion care, according to a new report.

Washington State passed the first youth sports concussion related law in 2009.  Since then, the remaining 49 states and Washington D.C. all have passed similar legislation.  While the details may differ, all of the laws include: mandatory education for coaches; immediate removal from the field of play; and medical clearance prior to returning to participation.

“In addition to state legislative action, national awareness of sports concussion has increased through heightened media awareness and coverage,” said the study authors led by Teresa B. Gibson, PhD of Truven Health Analytics and Health Care Policy and Harvard Medical School.

The National Football League recently agreed to “pay hundreds of millions of dollars to settle a lawsuit brought by about 5,000 former players who said the league hid from them the dangers of repeated hits to the head,” according to The New York Times.

According to the study, “concussion-related office visit rates increased by 20 percent per school year before the first concussion legislation” in 2009. In 2011-12, there was a 150 percent increase in neurologist visits compared to pre-legislation years.

A major concern regarding concussions, particularly in youth sports, is returning to play too soon and suffering a repeat injury.  The authors noted that more than 90 percent of repeat injuries occur within 10 days of the initial incident.

“We would expect that the increased use of physicians through office (78 percent increase) and neurologist (150 percent increase) visits has resulted in better management and longer recovery times before returning to participation,” said the authors.

The study appeared in the current JAMA Pediatrics.

-Brad Broker

(Photo by Stuart Seeger via Flickr)

One comment

  1. Unfortunately, the mere existence of legislation is giving the general public a false sense of security about increased protections for our kids. But the fact is that the legislation generally falls way short of measures that actually make anybody safer at all. The very language of the legislation is typically written to be budget neutral and rarely defines EXACTLY what kind of concussion education must be given to youth athletes and their families. In fact, it often fails to even define what a “youth” is.

    The best line of protection for the athletes is still the athletic trainers, coaches, and parents. It’s crucial that these three groups not be satisfied with merely living up to the legislation but, rather, go beyond that and really educate themselves about concussions: how to recognize them, and how to treat them before clearing any return to play. If all we do is live up to the letter of the law, we’re still falling way too short.

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