The AMA’s new policy says that youth athletes suspected of having sustained a concussion — whether in a game or practice — must immediately be removed from activity and can only return after a physician provides written consent.
“It is essential that athletes know how crucial it is to notify their coach, trainer, physician or parent if they’ve sustained any type of head injury because even mild cases of traumatic brain injury (TBI) may have serious and prolonged consequences,” said AMA Board Member Jack Resneck Jr., M.D.
Emergency room visits for sports related traumatic brain injuries, specifically concussions, have increased more than 60 percent over the last 10 years. More than 90 percent of repeat injuries occur within 10 days of the initial incident. The AMA’s new policy calls for a set of age-specific guidelines for doctors and athletic organizations to use in evaluating and managing concussion in youth athletes to prevent repeat injuries.
According to a recent studies, 59 percent of middle school female soccer players — the group most likely to suffer a sports related TBI — reported playing with a concussion and returning to play too soon prior to recovery.
The rates of concussions are slightly higher for middle school aged female soccer players than for male high school football players — 1.2 vs. 1.03 per 1000 athlete exposure hours in practice and games, respectively.
A study of high school athletes with concussions also found that 15 percent returned to play prematurely, and nearly 16 percent of football players who sustained a concussion that resulted in loss-of-consciousness returned to play in less than one day.
“By raising awareness of the serious risks associated with concussions and ensuring that the appropriate guidelines are in place, we can reduce the number of young athletes who may return to the game too soon, which can put their health at further risk,” said Dr. Resneck.