ISU Professor’s Research Shows Improvements to Concussion Education and Management in Idaho High Schools
January 19, 2023
A new study of Idaho high schools compliance levels in relation to the Idaho Youth Sports Concussion Law sheds light on the importance of continued concussion education and management in secondary schools.
Recently, Dr. Caroline Faure, Chair of the Human Performance and Sport Studies Department, provided a 10-year update to the Idaho Youth Sports Concussion Law that she helped pass in 2012. Faure’s study examined the ways in which Idaho’s high schools were addressing the law’s concussion education and concussion management components of removal from play, return to play, and return to learn. Athletic directors, who are relied upon in the majority of Idaho schools to manage concussions, from every Idaho high school that sponsored interscholastic athletic activity were invited to participate in 2021. The study found that considerable improvements had been made in Idaho high schools as a result of the passage of the Idaho Youth Sports Concussion Law.
Faure’s study, most notably, concluded that concussion education efforts had expanded despite little to no funding. Furthermore, Idaho high school athletic directors felt comfortable with compliance efforts and confident in their coaches’ ability to recognize concussions and remove athletes suspected of having a concussion from play. The research also showed that the number of athletic trainers in Idaho high schools had increased, as well as, access to a qualified health care professional. This included nearly all schools requiring a written medical clearance from a health care professional before they were allowed to return to play.
“Most impressive was the way Idaho’s rural schools, in particular, have been able to adhere to concussion return to play guidelines,” noted Faure. The study showed very few schools in rural areas lacked access to appropriate health care providers, as defined in Idaho’s law. There has been some concern through the years that rural communities would not have physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners or athletic trainers available. Faure found just the opposite was true. She credits an expansion of telehealth services in Idaho as helping to address the need.
While improvements in concussion law compliance were evident, the quality of concussion educational resources in schools were unknown. The research also showed that minimally-trained EMTs and first responders and parents were sometimes making return to play decisions in schools in lieu of acceptable health care providers.
Because it is estimated that 1.1 million to 1.9 million sports concussions occur to children 18 years or younger each year in the United States (Bryan et al., 2016), it is increasingly important to continue to advocate for concussion education and management in P-12 schools. Faure believes that funding, equitable access, and expansion to concussion education and management could help reduce future concussion risk in sport programs in Idaho schools.