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Concussion In Sport: Is ´Return To Play´ Legislation Necessary?

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When athletes suffer concussion, it´s essential for them to be removed from play and given appropriate treatment.

In the United States, legislation has been effective in increasing in the treatment of concussion-related injuries for school-age athletes.

According to the University of Michigan, concerns over concussion injuries and media coverage of them have skyrocketed over the past decade. Between 2009 and 2013, all 50 states and the District of Columbia passed ‘return to play´ laws on concussions in sports for youth and/or high school athletes. These were the first laws in the country enacted to address a specific injury and they generally cover:

• Education on concussion for coaches, parents and athletes

• Immediately removing athletes suspected of having concussion from play

• Only allowing return to play or practice after at least 24 hours and with permission from a healthcare professional

A study conducted by the University of Michigan to evaluate the impact of new concussion laws found that there was a 92% increase in children seeking medical assistance for concussions in states with the legislation in place. There was also a significant increase – 75% – in states that were yet to pass concussion laws.

This confirms that the legislation works, but also shows that widespread awareness of an injury has an equally important effect. “We found large increases in states without legislation, showing that just general knowledge plays a huge part,” commented Steven Broglio, senior author of the study.

Reporting their findings in the American Medical Association journal JAMA Pediatrics, the research team said that increased healthcare utilisation rates among children with concussion were both directly and indirectly related to concussion legislation. They said that part of the increased rates (60%) in states without legislation could be attributed to an ongoing upward trend and the remaining 40% increase in these states is thought to have resulted from greater awareness among the public due to heightened local and national media attention.

The researchers concluded that although concussion legislation appears to have led to more young people seeking treatment for concussion, the overall increase can also be put down to increased awareness of the injury.