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High school athletes found more vulnerable to concussions

By Nadia Kounang, CNN
updated 9:36 AM EDT, Thu October 31, 2013
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A "culture of resistance" may prevent athletes from reporting concussions or following treatment plans, research shows.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • High school athletes are more at risk from concussions than college athletes, study says
  • The study finds a "culture of resistance" to reporting such injuries
  • After one concussion, an athlete is more likely to experience a second, report says

(CNN) -- A new study from the National Academy of Sciences finds that high school athletes remain at risk for concussions -- and may be their own worst enemies.

The study found that a "culture of resistance" to reporting concussions and following treatment plans could be doing more harm to the athletes.

The study was released by the Committee on Sports-Related Concussions in Youth, which is affiliated with the National Academy of Sciences.

Funded in part by the National Football League, it found high school athletes who played football, lacrosse, soccer and baseball were more likely to experience concussions than college-age players.

Looking at emergency room reporting from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, the NCAA Injury Surveillance System and high school reporting online, the authors found that high school football players were almost twice as likely to have concussions as their collegiate counterparts.

Concussion concerns may lead to fewer boys playing football

However, study author Dr. Robert Graham was quick to point out that "we have numbers right now, but we don't have good data."

"We don't know if there's an actual increase of concussion in younger players, or that players in high school are more willing to report having symptoms," Graham said.

"The culture is changing, but players in college, particularly in Division I schools, may feel more committed to the sport and have more fears about how reporting symptoms may affect playing time."

In addition, the report also found that girls playing soccer and basketball were more likely to have concussions than boys. In fact, girls seem to have higher rates of concussion overall.

Women's ice hockey had the highest rate of concussions.

The report also found that helmets and equipment did little to temper the risk of concussion and that there was little scientific evidence to support claims from manufacturers that their gear improves safety.

In addition, after suffering one concussion, a player is more likely to experience another.

High schools tackle football concussions

Forty-nine states have concussions laws on the books, but Graham said the laws alone aren't enough to deal with the concussion issue.

"The state laws are all over the board. They have different stipulations, different reporting requirements. The law may be on the book, but what about enforcement?" Graham asked.

Overall, the report made six recommendations, including:

• stronger data collection;

• better metrics and diagnosis for concussions in young people;

• more studies assessing the long-term effects of repetitive head trauma;

• possible rule changes to make sports safer;

• more research looking at how the number and time between concussions affects the brain;

• increased efforts to change the culture and encourage reporting of symptoms and concussions.

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