Susan Schmunk, CSTR, CAISS
In the past decade new laws requiring better reporting and monitoring of concussions for high school athletes appear to be working to reduce the number of traumatic brain injuries that these athletes suffer, according to a study co-authored by a University of Colorado researcher. (Ingold, 2017) Preventing “recurrent concussions” is essential as the damage caused by concussions can increase exponentially if the head injuries occur close together in time.
The study found that the rates at which high school athletes suffered a second concussion soon after their first declined dramatically after states passed the laws. These new laws centered around the requirement that youth-sports coaches remove athletes from play if they show signs of a concussion and to prevent the athletes from returning to play until they are cleared by a doctor. A co-author on the paper, Dawn Comstock, a researcher at the Colorado School of Public Health, said the study suggests that athletes who sit out until they fully recover from a concussion are less likely to suffer a new concussion when they return to competition.
Information for this study was taken from a national database called High School RIO, or Reporting Information Online which is part of a broader nationwide effort to track and study high school sports injuries. Detailed reports are submitted by athletic trainers from across the country on every type of injury their athletes suffer – noting not just the injury, but other factors such as the time of day it occurred, the position the athlete was playing, the playing surface and the weather conditions.
The number of concussions reported increased after states passed their traumatic brain injury laws. Comstock reports this increase is probably the result of better awareness about concussion symptoms and better reporting, not an actual increase in the number of concussions. In subsequent years the rates for first-time concussions stabilized while rates for recurrent concussions dropped.
Concussions were most common in football players and across all sports, boys suffered concussions more frequently. But in sports both boys and girls play – such as soccer or basketball – girls had concussion rates almost twice that of boys. The researchers attribute this to biological factors, such as neck strength, which may play a role. It is also possible that girls are more disposed to speaking up when they suffer a head injury or that coaches are more sensitive to possible injuries with female athletes.
Overall, the study documented 8043 concussions between 2005 and 2016, which given their sample size, caused the researchers to estimate that there were 2.7 million concussions suffered by high school athletes in these years.
Comstock feels that parents shouldn’t be discouraged from letting their kids play sports, she feels the “long-term impact of inactivity is worse than the smaller risk of serious injury”.
Ingold, J. (2017, November 14). The Denver Post. Retrieved from Denver Post Web site: https://www.denverpost.com/2017/11/14/cu-study-concussion-laws-reduce-repeat-injury/