This paper describes the current state of laws across the United States aimed at combatting concussions, commonly referred to as “traumatic brain injuries” or TBIs, among young athletes. Since 2009, 47 states and Washington, DC, have passed legislation designed to reduce the long-term consequences of TBIs in youth sports.
The authors, led by Hosea H. Harvey, JD, raise concerns about the relationship between the state-level youth sports TBI laws and current public health knowledge and practice.
According to the study, the laws generally adhere to the framework in the Lystedt law, which follows a secondary prevention model aimed at avoiding re-injury. Individuals who suffer TBIs and resume play too soon may be at greater risk of second-impact syndrome, which may have serious health consequences. The Lystedt law outlines three core elements to prevent secondary concussions: annual education for athletes and parents, mandatory removal from play for athletes suspected of having concussions, and clearance by a designated health professional before a concussed athlete can return to play.
The study finds the most common elements of youth sports TBI laws include a minimum 24-hour mandatory removal from play, required assessment from a health professional before an athlete can return to play, training for coaches on concussion management, yearly information sheets for parents and youth athletes, and clauses that waive liability for certain parties. It suggests that these state-based laws are only part of a comprehensive youth sports TBI-prevention framework. Additional actions, such as changing sports rules, utilizing equipment technology, and identifying better education programs, could be taken to bolster efforts at preventing TBIs in youth athletes.