Each year, approximately 2 million US children 18 years or younger sustain a concussion, a type of mild traumatic brain injury (TBI). Concussions can have detrimental effects on physical, cognitive, emotional, or sleep health.
Between 2009 and 2014, all 50 US states and Washington, District of Columbia, enacted state concussion laws aimed to increase awareness about concussion and reduce the prevalence and severity of this injury. Most state laws include the following core tenets: (1) immediate removal from play after an actual or suspected concussion; (2) medical clearance before an athlete can return to play (RTP); and (3) concussion education for athletes, parents, and coaches.
State concussion laws allow for substantial interpretation at the school level, resulting in considerable variation in the content of school written concussion policies and the level of implementation of state law requirements at the school level.
We assessed the degree of high school written concussion policy compliance with the respective state law and examined the relationship between concussion policy compliance and school-level implementation of concussion laws. Seventy-one school officials completed a semistructured telephone interview and submitted their school's written concussion policy. Of the 71 policies analyzed, most complied with the removal-from-play, RTP, and concussion education tenets (90.1%, 97.2%, and 76.1%, respectively). The majority of participants reported that their school implemented the removal-from-play (91.5%), RTP (93.0%), and concussion education (80.6%) tenets well or very well. No significant relationships were found between researcher-rated school policy compliance and school-reported implementation of state law requirements at the school level.
Our findings suggest that most participating schools complied with their state concussion law and implemented law requirements well or very well. Future studies should identify facilitators and barriers to the implementation of state concussion laws at the school level.