Less than a third of Massachusetts schools turned in reports last year on sports-related concussions and head injuries as required by state law, but even the small amount of data collected demonstrates that concussions among student-athletes pose a significant health issue.
The law, which went into effect in 2010, requires all schools to submit reports each August on the incidence of concussions among student-athletes during the previous school year. Many noncompliant athletic directors and school officials said they were either unaware of the deadline or confused by the forms, prompting changes to the reporting process. For this year's August 31 deadline, state officials have rolled out a revised form with clearer instructions on what to include, as well as definitions to help dispel confusion.
"It was clear that a number of the schools didn't really understand what the form was asking," interim director of the state Department of Public Health's Bureau of Community Health and Prevention Carlene Pavlos told the Boston Globe.
Of the state's 689 schools, 213 submitted data on the 2011-12 school year. According to initial reports, 3,450 head injuries were suffered by athletes during that time. The data, Pavlos says, is not intended to be used for any analysis, at least not yet, but serves as a tool for raising awareness about concussion dangers. She warns that the number of reported concussions is expected to increase in coming years, not because of a greater incidence of injury, but because of greater awareness and reporting.
Pavlos' department will also be reviewing schools' current policies to make sure they are compliant with the 2010 concussion law, which also mandates return-to-play protocols and concussion-awareness education for student, parents and coaches.