Only 31 percent of Massachusetts high schools and middle schools complied last year with a state law mandating reporting on student athlete concussions. State officials are hoping for greater compliance when new figures come due August 31.
In 2010, Massachusetts passed a law aimed at identifying and preventing concussions among student athletes. Under the law, 689 public and private schools were required to report data for the 2011-2012 academic year. However, only 213 schools submitted figures, and those figures showed that 3,450 students had suffered a head injury or suspected concussion in sports. The figures were recently reported in The Boston Globe.
To encourage reporting this year, the state has changed its form to make deadlines appear more prominent and provide definitions for data.
A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury caused by a force to the head, such as a fall or car accident. Symptoms typically include headaches, dizziness and memory problems. Left untreated, it can result in long-term brain impairment. In recent years, focus has been on preventing concussions in sports at every level, from the National Football League (NFL) to high schools down to Pop Warner football leagues.
Massachusetts is one of 47 states which have passed so-called “return to play” laws since 2009. The state of Washington passed the first concussion in sports law in 2009.
The Massachusetts sports concussion law requires students, parents and coaches to receive annual training to recognize the signs of a concussion. Students who sustain a concussion are required to sit out and obtain a doctor’s written permission to return to the game.
As a final step, schools must report figures to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH). Public schools and those subject to the rules of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) must comply with the law.
Sports and recreational activities cause 3.8 million concussions each year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). When an athlete suffers a concussion, they become at risk for suffering another one. Proper rest is important, and teenagers, along with older adults and young children, are believed to have longer recovery periods.
If you are the parent of a student athlete, summer is a good time to learn about the law. Ask your child’s coach when the school will hold concussion training sessions. You can also read a summary of the Massachusetts sports concussion law.
State revises concussion reporting after weak response from schools, The Boston Globe.