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Study Finds High Schools Had Challenges Enforcing Concussion Protocols

High school football player during the national anthem.
Senior Airman Naomi Griego
U.S. Air Force photo

A study from researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital found high schools nationwide reported challenges in implementing and enforcing concussion regulations.

Published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, the research outlines those barriers in three main areas: education on regarding concussions, protocols for removing a student from play and guidelines for when those athletes can return.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association established guidelines in 2010, and Ohio enacted its youth concussion laws in 2013.

"We've got pretty good buy-in here in our state, because we've been emphasizing education for such a long time," says Debbie Moore, the OHSAA's senior director of compliance and sports medicine.

She says rules help enforce that buy-in.

"Our parents have to go through mandatory meetings, they have to sign off on educational materials, they get to hear from our coaches and administrators on this issue. Our coaches obviously have to have this training or they cannot coach," she says.

Bigger than education, though, is a culture shift away from a traditional "toughen up" mentality. Moore says that too is changing, nine years after the association released its guidelines.

"We're seeing a culture change because our coaches are educated," she says. "I believe our coaches want what is best for students, and they're all about protecting their health and safety. That old mindset, I just don't see that as much anymore."

Other findings from the study, conducted by the Center for Injury Research and Policy in the Nationwide Children's Hospital Abigail Wexner Research Institute, include:

  • Athletes were unwilling to disclose concussion symptoms and coaches and parents resisted their removal as well. 
  • Trainers found education materials used too much jargon, didn't include active learning and often weren't available in the right languages. 
  • Coaches and parents resisted taking student-athletes out of games after concussion symptoms were noted.
Clare Roth was former All Things Considered Host for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU in February of 2017. After attending the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, she returned to her native Iowa as a producer for Iowa Public Radio.