A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health noted a significant decrease in recurrent concussions among high school athletes following the implementation of laws in many states relating to sports play.

As reported by Temple University Center for Public Health Law Research, these laws aim to reduce harm from brain injuries occurring during youth sports activities. They address such factors as removal from play following injury, requirements for return-to-play clearance after a concussion, and education of coaches, parents, and athletes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to 300,000 youths suffer traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) or concussions while playing sports each year. TBIs can cause serious health consequences in children, which may be short-term or lifelong.

In response to these injuries, all states have passed laws for the purpose of reducing brain injuries during youth sports play. Data is now available to analyze the possible impact of those laws on reducing brain injuries in children.

Study Focused on Concussion Rate Data in Common High School Sports

Using data from LawAtlas and the High School Report Injury Online between the 2005-2006 and 2015-2016 academic years, the researchers focused on high school boys’ football, girls’ and boys’ basketball, girls’ and boys’ soccer, boys’ baseball, boys’ wrestling, girls’ softball, and girls’ volleyball.

During the 11-year study period, the researchers estimated nearly 2.7 million concussions occurred nationwide among high school athletes. Football accounted for approximately half of all reported concussions in the study. Girls’ gender-comparable sports had consistently higher concussion rates than boys’ sports over time.

The study examined the statistical association between the implementation of the state laws addressing traumatic brain injuries/concussions and actual concussion rates among the high school athletes. The study found a significant decrease in the number of recurrent concussions, where the athlete had experienced at least one prior concussion. The trend toward decreasing recurrent concussion rates became evident approximately two and a half years after the enactment of the laws.

The researchers found that while rates of recurrent concussions decreased, rates of concussions actually went up in the year immediately following a law’s effective date, indicating that more concussions were being reported. This is consistent with the fact that most of the laws require the reporting of all suspected and actual TBIs/concussions.

Further, the education requirement in the laws results in more awareness of the symptoms and signs of concussion. Thus, concussions that were previously not reported or even diagnosed, are now being reported.

State by State Map of Laws Aimed at Reducing Brain Injuries in Youth Sports

Washington state was the first to enact a youth sports concussion law in 2009. Every state and the District of Columbia have now enacted such laws. More information about the sports concussion laws in individual states is available from Law Atlas, which also provides a clickable map that displays and details the laws in each state.