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Feature Story

December 2017


Study: Laws Reduce Recurrent Concussions

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By Deborah L. Vence

New research, published in the American Journal of Public Health in October, shows that traumatic brain injury (TBI) laws are helpful in reducing the rate of recurrent concussions in high school athletes.

The study—from the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital and done together with researchers from the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado and Temple University—looked at the trends of new and recurrent sport-related concussions among high school athletes before and after traumatic brain injury (TBI) laws were implemented and how effective they've been.

The study showed that while the rates of new and recurrent concussions initially increase after a law goes into effect, the recurrent concussion rate showed a significant decline 2.6 years after the laws went into effect. Researchers suggested that the decline could be attributed to the removal and return-to-play requirements, indicating that the TBI laws might have an effect on reducing negative public health outcomes.

The concern about concussions among high school athletes has grown over the years, with a push for more oversight on how such injuries should be dealt with.

Between 2009 and 2014, the 50 states and the District of Columbia enacted one or more traumatic brain injury (TBI) laws to address sport-related concussions. The laws often include mandates to remove athletes from play following an actual or suspected concussion, requirements to be cleared to return to play, and annual education of coaches, parents, and/or athletes regarding concussion signs or symptoms, according to information from an October press release on www.nationwidechildrens.org.

The study took a look at TBIs in high school athletes who competed in at least one of nine sports (boys' football, boys' wrestling, girls' volleyball, boys' and girls' soccer, boys' and girls' basketball, boys' baseball and girls' softball) from the fall of 2005 through spring 2016. During this time period, an estimated 2.7 million concussions were reported in these nine sports, or about 671 concussions per day, or about one every two minutes, according to the press release. Of the reported concussions, about 89 percent were new and 11 percent were recurrent (a repeat concussion in an athlete that has already had at least one other concussion).

Concussions were found to be more frequent among male athletes, in football and during competitions. Football had the highest average annual concussion rate, followed by girls' soccer and boys' wrestling. Males had a higher average annual concussion rate than females. When comparing the rates in gender-comparable sports (basketball, soccer, baseball/softball), however, females had almost double the annual rate of concussions as males.


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