1st school survey: 1 percent of Mo. youth athletes got head injuries last fall

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- The Missouri High School Activities Association just released its first report on the number of head injuries that student-athletes in the state sustained in fall sports and activities in 2011.  MSHSAA estimates about 1 percent of the students who participated in those activities suffered a concussion or other head injury.

The report is the first one required by a state law passed by the Legislature and the governor last spring.  It went into effect in late August.  Because it's the first report for Missouri, there's no previous data with which to compare it.

About 74 percent of MSHSAA's members answered a survey last month about how many participants they had in fall activities and how many sustained head injuries.  The survey was for schools that have any or all grades 7 - 12. 

From those schools that answered the survey, MSHSAA estimates about 1,100 athletes suffered some kind of head injury, out of nearly 113,000 student-athletes in those activities at those schools.  The fall activities include soccer, swimming and diving, cross country, baseball, football, golf, tennis, volleyball and cheerleading.

The schools that answered the survey reported 871 concussions among the head injuries.  That included 653 concussions in football, 81 in boys soccer, 40 in sideline cheerleading, 29 in girls volleyball, 40 in girls softball and 28 in other sports.

Under the new law, MSHSAA has to do an annual report on head injuries.  Supporters of the law hope the data will help schools find ways to better protect students from concussions and lesser head injuries.

Last spring, supporters of the new law told legislators that, between 2005 and 2008, about 400,000 high school athletes nationwide sustained concussions in school activities.  Children's Mercy Hospital in St. Louis said it had seen a recent 25-percent increase in the number of high school-aged concussion patients

The new law requires MSHSAA and schools to establish standards for the safety and protection against long-term injuries to youth athletes.  It requires the Department of Health and Senior Services to work with the Missouri School Boards Association, MSHSAA, and support services organizations for brain injuries to establish guidelines to educate coaches, student athletes and their parents on the risk of concussion and brain injury.
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Complete MSHSAA brain injury report

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Here's the language of the new law:

167.765. 1. The provisions of this section shall be known as the "High School Sports Brain Injury Prevention Act". No later than December 31, 2011, the school board of each school district shall work in concert with the Missouri State High School Activities Association to develop guidelines, pertinent information, and forms to educate coaches, youth athletes, and the parents or guardians of youth athletes of the nature and risk of concussion and head injury including continuing to play after concussion or head injury.

 2. On a yearly basis, a concussion and head injury information sheet shall be signed by the athlete's parent or guardian and submitted prior to the youth athlete's initiating practice or competition.

 3. A youth athlete who is suspected for sustaining a concussion or head injury in a practice or game shall be removed from competition at that time.

 4. A youth athlete who has been removed from play shall not return to play until the athlete is evaluated by a licensed health care provider trained in the evaluation and management of concussion, as defined by the Missouri State High School Activities Association in consultation with the department of mental health, and receives written clearance to return to play from that health care provider. The health care provider may be a volunteer. A volunteer who authorizes a youth athlete to return to play is not liable for civil damages resulting from any act or omission in the rendering of such care, other than acts or omissions constituting gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct.