Projects – Sports-Related Concussions in Minnesota High School Athletes

Sports-Related Concussions in Minnesota High School Athletes

Concussions are a type of traumatic brain injury. While sports-related concussions are not necessarily different from concussions caused by other activities, these brain injuries disproportionately affect youth and occur during sanctioned activities.

On March 15, 2010, the Department of Human Services’ Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Advisory Committee convened a Youth Sports and Concussion round table discussion. Seventeen experts across various organizations including the Minnesota Departments of Human Services, Health and Education gathered to discuss current trends and ways to reduce the frequency of TBI in youth sports.

The round table discussion established that sports-related concussions were a much bigger problem than observed from the data that was available.

Collecting data

In 2013, MDH began working with the Minnesota Department of Education and the Institute for Athletic Medicine to have athletic trainers report sports-related concussions in 36 public high schools in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. The results of that pilot were published in Minnesota Medicine in September 2014. The project was repeated in 2014 adding three more schools to the roster.

This is Your Brain on Sports: Measuring Concussions in High School Athletes in the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area (PDF). (Reprinted with permission, Minnesota Medical Association)

2014-15 Data Brief: Sports-Related Concussions in Minnesota High School Athletes (PDF)

MDH shared the findings from this project at the School Nurse Organization of Minnesota’s annual conferences in 2014 and 2015. Following that conference, MDH surveyed school nurses to learn how prepared they were to work with students who had suffered a concussion. The school nurses’ response showed a need and desire for more training and resources on:

  • Concussion identification
  • Concussion Care
  • Return to school protocols
  • Online resources for return to school information

The survey also gathered information from the respondents about how schools currently track concussions, and what policies or protocols are in place on students who have had a concussion returning to school.

MDH Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Registry

Since 1993, MDH has maintained a registry of Minnesotans who have been hospitalized with a traumatic brain injury. From this registry, the Health Department provides information to each person to let them know about the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance (MBIA), which connects individuals with available programs and services through Resource Facilitation.

However, most sports-related concussions are not captured in the registry because many patients are seen by athletic trainers, in urgent care or in clinics, rather than being hospitalized. Because most people with a sports-related concussion are not hospitalized, these individuals are not being directed to the MBIA through the MDH TBI Registry.

While the majority of concussions resolve relatively quickly, some individuals will experience persistent symptoms and may benefit from being connected with these specialized programs and services.

Future research and the greater impact of concussion in youth

To date, MDH has focused on collecting concussion data on high school athletes; however, we hope to extend this to include all youth sports. Youth have a much higher incidence of concussion than people 20 years old or older, with sports being a leading cause.

With the brain still developing at these ages, the consequences can be much greater, and with this information, we can provide guidance to appropriate resources for those affected, schools, athletic trainers and school nurses.

For more information

Contact Leslie Seymour, MD, MPH, Epidemiologist, Minnesota Department of Health

Learn more about Traumatic Brain and Spinal Cord Injury.