The Legal Landscape of Concussion: Implications for Sports Medicine Providers

Athletes Playing Soccer
In recent years, sports-related concussion – particularly at the high school level – has become a major public health concern. Current concussion law in all fifty states involves sports injury education, removal from play, and restrictions on athletes’ return to play after a head injury. This legislation is intended to protect youth athletes from the potentially devastating consequences of traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Sports healthcare providers have compiled key medical and legal information regarding sports-related concussion. They note that before a game or practice begins, an emergency action plan (EAP) should be implemented to streamline treatment procedures in case of injury. A sideline physician following an EAP and assessing player injury can remove a player from the game even if concussion is only “suspected,” lowering the risk that a concussed athlete (who may not show symptoms) returns to play and suffers further injury. Those athletes who are cleared to return to play still require constant surveillance, as concussion symptoms may not present immediately. If symptoms do evolve over the course of play, the physician should reevaluate the athlete for head injury.

Above all, concussion legislation aims to improve sports safety regarding TBI by increasing concussion awareness and preventing injured players from returning to play before adequate recovery. With attention to medical supervision and legal procedure, sports medicine providers can significantly decrease TBI risk factors and ensure athletes’ safe recovery from concussion.

Source: Albano AW, Senter C, Adler RH, et al. The legal landscape of concussion: Implications for sports medicine providers. Sports Health: An Interdisciplinary Approach. (August 2016).
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