September 4, 2014
Concussions continue as a health concern in school sports
Minnesota high school students suffered nearly 3,000 sports-related concussions during the 2013-14 school year, according to estimates based on voluntary reports from schools in the Twin Cities.
The Minnesota Department of Health, in close partnership with the Institute for Athletic Medicine, collected online reports of sports-related concussions from 36 Twin Cities public high schools. During the 2013-2014 academic year, athletic trainers reported 730 concussions.
Based on these findings, MDH estimates that 2,974 sports-related concussions - or 22 per school - occurred among high school athletes statewide during the 2013-2014 school year. The study results are published in the September issue of Minnesota Medicine.
“These findings indicate that sports-related concussions are a significant source of youth head injuries in our state,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Ed Ehlinger. “To protect our young athletes, we need appropriate equipment and training on sports techniques. We also need to focus on building awareness among athletes, parents, teachers, coaches, and health care providers about the warning signs of brain injuries.”
This voluntary tracking system sheds new light on how common concussions are in high school sports. This method or reporting found about three times more sports-related concussions among high-school age youths than previous Minnesota reports that relied on hospital records.
Football, boys’ ice hockey, and girls’ ice hockey had the highest concussion rates. Concussions rates for football and hockey were essentially the same. Football had the highest number of concussions with 42 percent of the reported concussions involving football, because more students participate in football. For sports with both male and female teams, female athletes had higher rates of concussion. The Twin Cities rate for all sports was 1 concussion per 100 participating athletes with no adjustments made for actual playing time.
A concussion is an injury to the brain that can have significant impact on academics.
“Concussions can be serious and should not be taken lightly,” said Lori Glover, director of rehabilitation for the Institute for Athletic Medicine. “Most resolve without issue, but it is extremely important that the athlete is relaying all signs and symptoms accurately. Athletes should never participate in contact sports while they are still experiencing symptoms, because a second event before an athlete is fully healed can cause significant and potentially long-term issues.”
As for outcomes, the study found 5 percent of reported concussion cases had symptoms lasting longer than two weeks. This result indicated less harm from concussions than other national studies.
The CDC recommends that a student be sent to the school nurse, or another professional designated to address health issues, if a student has any kind of forceful blow to the head or to the body that results in rapid movement of the head and if the student’s behavior, thinking, or physical functioning changes. A useful resource about signs and symptoms is the CDC guide, Heads Up to Schools: Know Your Concussions. http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/HeadsUp/schools.html
In 2011, Minnesota passed a law that requires coaches to remove athletes under 18 from sports events if they have symptoms of concussion. A health care provider needs to give them permission before they can suit up again. The law also mandates that coaches undergo periodic training about concussions and ensures that parents have easy access to information regarding the risks.