- According to information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 15% of all student athletes suffered a concussion in 2017, and while concussions were often treated in the past as minor incidents, a greater understanding of their frequency and long-term impact has prompted many states and school districts to develop stronger protocols regarding diagnosis, treatment and response, District Administration reports.
- Much of the concern about concussions has focused on football due to its popularity, but students of all genders participating in sports like soccer, volleyball, lacrosse and water polo are also at high risk. Female soccer players are also the most likely high school athletes to suffer concussions, with one in 6.2 concussions reported in the 2016-17 school year.
- Potential solutions include teaching proper technique and strength and conditioning techniques with players; improving or requiring more protective head gear for some sports; changing the rules of play to protect long-term brain health; learning and implementing immediate screening techniques, such as vestibular ocular motor screening; educating parents, teachers, administrators and medical personnel; and following protocols now in place in all 50 states regarding return to play after a concussion.
Recent years have seen significant growth in understanding of the long-term effects of concussion — and especially repetitive brain trauma — on athletes. For student athletes, these injuries affect not just the student but the school, as well.
While a concussion requires immediate assessment and attention by medical professionals, schools must also remain aware of how long that concussion will interrupt a student’s education. Since all concussions need to be regarded seriously, schools may need to make certain accommodations for students when they first return to class and should look for signs of post-concussion syndrome when they return.
The Centers for Disease Control has developed a free training course to help inform school nurses, educators and parents about sports-related concussions.
Schools are often held accountable for student safety, and lawsuits regarding concussion, especially related to football, are on the rise. School administrators must ensure coaches and physical education teachers have proper training on head injuries. They must also be aware of state laws regarding concussions, as well as the protocols needed to help prevent possible lawsuits.
Some schools are developing sports concussion management plans to address these risks. In the long term, district and school administrators may need to decide if football in particular, given its level of attention in the debate, is worth the risk after all.