By Ken Reed

Concussions and brain trauma in youth and high school sports has become such a big issue that the National Athletic Trainers Association recently devoted an entire issue of Journal of Athletic Training to sport-related concussions.

The trainers’ survey found that 94% of adults said head injuries and concussions in sports are a public health issue.

There were other interesting findings but the most concerning was that 55% of high school athletes said they didn’t or wouldn’t report a concussion. This despite the fact that all the athletes in the survey had taken preseason concussion education mandated by their states. Reasons for not reporting the concussion symptoms included: not wanting to lose playing time, not thinking the injury was serious enough to require medical attention, and not wanting to let the team down.

Another disturbing finding: Only 37% of U.S. high schools employ a full-time athletic trainer. This is important because schools with full-time trainers do a better job of identifying concussed athletes than schools without full-time trainers. Also, athletes at schools without full-time athletic trainers return to play sooner than athletes with full-time trainers. Returning to play too soon after a concussion is dangerous because an athlete is more vulnerable to a follow-up concussion. Athletes that return to play too soon are also at higher risk for a rare but serious and sometimes fatal condition known as Second Impact Syndrome.

Also of note, athletes at schools with athletic trainers correctly identified the signs and symptoms of concussions at a higher rate than athletes at schools without full-time trainers.

If schools are going to spend the money to fund competitive varsity athletics, they also need to find the money to fund a full-time athletic trainer.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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