Reducing Traumatic Brain Injuries in Youth Sports

A young athlete who suffers a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and resumes play too soon may be at greater risk of second-impact syndrome, which can have serious health consequences.

In an effort to reduce youth sports TBIs, 44 states and Washington, D.C. have passed youth sports TBI legislation.

According to this study, the laws generally adhere to the framework of Washington State’s Zackery Lystedt Law, which follows a secondary prevention model aimed at avoiding re-injury.

This article assesses current state youth sports TBI laws and their relationship to scientific understanding of TBI. Specifically looking at youth sports TBI laws enacted between January 2009 and December 2012, the researcher collected laws using Westlaw and Lexis-Nexis databases, and then coded the findings. Protocol and a codebook were developed for future research.

The article finds that youth sports TBI symptoms are wide-ranging; there is no diagnostic tool; and no injury reporting process nationwide.

Key Findings:

  • Common elements of youth sports TBI laws include a minimum, mandatory 24-hour removal from play, a 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.
  • There is not scientific agreement around the removal period or consensus around professional qualifications required to assess a young athlete potentially suffering from a TBI.
  • Only 25 laws explicitly require coach education around youth sports TBI and its symptoms.

Additional steps, including primary and secondary interventions, addressing youth sports TBI should be considered.

(Note: Since December 2012, three additional states have passed laws aimed at preventing TBIs in youth sports, and others have updated their legislation.)


NewPublicHealth content   

Read a NewPublicHealth Q&A with the study's author, Hosea Harvey, JD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Law at the Temple University Beasley School of Law; and a related Q&A with the Babe Ruth League, about the role of youth sports leagues to help prevent injuries.