Estimating prevalence of youth sports-related concussion with the Hawai'i Concussion Awareness & Management Program (HCAMP)

soccer ball to mans head

Mild traumatic brain injury (TBI), commonly known as concussion, is a serious concern among young athletes. Although less severe than other types of TBI, concussions are still associated with with negative physical, behavioral, and psychological outcomes and remain a significant public health issue. Unfortunately, student athletes are known to under-report their head injuries for fear of being removed from play, resulting in a high number of untreated concussions among adolescents.

As a result, many public school systems are motivated to carefully track injuries among student athlete populations. For example, in 2011 the Hawai'i Department of Education established the Hawai'i Concussion Awareness & Management Program (HCAMP) with the mission of providing the state’s athletic and medical communities with the education and resources to manage concussions. The program has aimed to estimate concussion prevalence in the state of Hawai'i and work towards providing concussion education and awareness to coaches, trainers, health care workers, parents, and students. Between 2010 and 2016, HCAMP analyzed data from 67 Hawai'i high schools, finding that:

  • Until 2014, all sports experienced a significant rise in the number of student athletes who sustained a concussion, perhaps as a result of improved reporting and awareness.
  • Concussion rates significantly decreased between 2014 and 2016. The reason is unclear, but researchers suggest that recent implementation of contact limits during practices may have successfully reduced the risk of head injury among student athletes.
  • Girls who participated in judo were the most likely to sustain concussions, followed by boys’ football. Although data from other states in the U.S. indicate that football players are consistently the most vulnerable for concussion, Hawai'i is the only state where judo is officially played in schools.

Concussion remains a serious public health problem among student athletes. Fortunately, in states like Hawai'i, public policy initiatives designed to increase concussion awareness and standardize head injury management have seen some success in recent years, potentially contributing to declining rates of TBI among vulnerable student athletes. Concussion will always be a risk in contact and collision sports, but education and awareness campaigns can play a significant role in promoting health and safety in schools and communities.

Murata NM, Oshiro RS, Furutani T, et al. Hawai'i Concussion Awareness & Management Program (HCAMP). Hawai'i Journal of Medicine and Public Health. (May 2019).

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