Sports Concussions

Sports Concussions

"Remember, it's better to miss one game than an entire season. And better to miss the season than risk your life and future."

Concussions are a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head. It’s estimated that 75% of TBIs that occur nationally each year are concussions or other mild TBIs (1). All concussions are serious. In 2011,

  • 6,228 Utahns were treated and released from the emergency department (ED) for a concussion.
  • Of these, 41.7% were due to sports/recreation activities.
  • Half (48.3%) of all ED visits for sports/recreation-related concussions were among children ages 10-19. When age is looked at more closely, 25.7% of concussions from sports/recreation activities were among teens ages 15-19 and 22.6% were among children ages 10-14.

Concussions among Utah High School Athletes

Like TBIs, symptoms of a concussion can vary greatly from person to person. The culture of sports can negatively influence athletes' self-reporting of concussion symptoms and their adherence to return-to-play guidance. Athletes, their teammates, coaches and parents may not fully understand or appreciate the impact of concussions on the health of the youth athlete (2). In 2013, among Utah high school students in grades 9-12 who played sports (3):

  • More than a third (35.9%) had symptoms of a concussion and never told anyone.
  • More than one in six (16%) said they were told by a doctor that they had a concussion or symptoms of a concussion.
  • 15.3% reported they were removed from play by a coach because a concussion was suspected.

Utah's Concussion Law

In 2011, the Utah State Legislature passed HB204 Protection of Athletes with Head Injuries Act. This law requires amateur sports organizations and schools (ski resorts are exempt from the law) to adopt and enforce a concussion and head injury policy and to get written approval of the policy by parents/legal guardians before their child participates in a sport activity. A child who gets a head injury must be removed from play and may only return after written clearance from a qualified health care provider. Qualified health care providers must have taken a continuing education course in the evaluation and management of a concussion within the last three years.

The School Health Profiles Survey showed that between 88.5% and 94.8% of schools had enacted a concussion policy after passage of this law in 2011. While most schools in Utah are in compliance in terms of having a concussion policy, little data exists on implementation and enforcement of concussion policies at non-school programs (e.g., club/city/county recreational programs). Training of youth athletes and their families, coaches, officials, and staff working with amateur sports organizations is critical for ensuring youth athletes are properly screened for a concussion after injury and then referred into appropriate follow-up services.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Report to Congress on mild traumatic brain injury in the United States: Steps to prevent a serious public health problem. Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2003.
  2. Sports-Related Concussions in Youth, 2014
  3. 2013 Utah Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System