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Concussion in High School Sports: Overall Estimate of Occurrence Is Not Available, but Key State Laws and Nationwide Guidelines Address Injury Management

GAO-10-569T Published: May 20, 2010. Publicly Released: May 20, 2010.
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Participation in school sports can benefit children but also carries a risk of injury, including concussion. Concussion is a brain injury that can affect memory, speech, and muscle coordination and can cause permanent disability or death. Concussion can be especially serious for children, who are more likely than adults both to sustain a concussion and to take longer to recover. These factors may affect return-to-play decisions, which determine when it is safe for an athlete to participate in sports again. GAO was asked to testify on concussion incurred in high school sports. This statement focuses on (1) what is known about the nationwide occurrence of concussion, (2) federal concussion prevention programs, (3) the components of key state laws related to the management of concussion, and (4) the recommendations of voluntary nationwide concussion management guidelines. To do this work, GAO conducted literature searches; reviewed injury databases, state laws, and documents from federal agencies and organizations that conduct work in high school athletics or sports medicine; and interviewed federal officials and experts who identified key state laws and nationwide guidelines and provided other information. GAO shared the information in this statement with the relevant federal agencies.

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