On Tuesday June 9th, the American Medical Association (AMA) adopted a concussion policy for youth sports programs. The policy comes amid growing concerns surrounding head trauma both in sports at the professional and amateur levels. The Physicians News Digest reports that emergency room visits for sports-related concussions have increased more than 60 percent over the last ten years, and more than 90 percent of repeat injuries happen within 10 days of the initial incident. Up to 3.8 million sports-related traumatic brain injuries, including concussions, occur annually in the United States according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The new AMA policy requires youth athletes suspected of having sustained a concussion to be immediately removed from activity, regardless of whether the incident occurs in a game or at practice. The athlete can then only return after a physician provides written consent.

Return to Play After Suspected Concussion

Our AMA: (1) promotes the adoption of requirements that athletes participating in school or other organized youth sports and who are suspected by a coach, trainer, administrator, or other individual responsible for the health and well-being of athletes of having sustained a concussion, should not return to play or practice without the written approval of an MD or DO; and (2) encourages educational efforts designed to improve the understanding of concussion by athletes, their parents, coaches, and trainers.

In explaining the policy, AMA Board Member Dr. Jack Resneck said “[i]t is essential that athletes know how crucial it is to notify their coach, trainer, physician or parent if they’ve sustained any type of head injury because even mild cases of traumatic brain injury may have serious and prolonged consequences.”

The AMA found that playing through concussion symptoms is not limited to the professional ranks. In fact, the AMA cited a recent study in which it found that 59 percent of middle-school girl soccer players reported playing with concussion symptoms, with less than half assessed by a doctor or other qualified health professional. A study of high school athletes with concussion symptoms showed that 15 percent returned to play prematurely, and almost 16 percent of football players who sustained concussions resulting in loss of consciousness returned to play in less than a day. According to Dr. Resneck, by raising awareness of these injuries, athletes can limit further health risk.