Student Well-Being

Neurologists Offer Guide on Athletes’ Head Injuries

By Jessica Portner — March 26, 1997 2 min read

A team of neurologists has given school athletic groups a heads-up, urging coaches to take mild concussions more seriously and conduct tests to measure the severity of the players’ injuries on the field.

“There’s no such thing as a ‘minor’ concussion,” said Dr. James P. Kelly, a neurologist and the lead author of the study published this month in the American Academy of Neurology. “Repeated concussions can cause permanent damage to the brain,” he said.

One-fifth of high school football players sustain a concussion each season, according to the report. Among children and adolescents, brain injury is the most common injury in winter sports such as hockey and ice skating. The report defines a concussion as a trauma-induced alteration in mental status that may or may not provoke unconsciousness.

Often, head injuries are not taken as seriously as they should be because the blow may not render an athlete unconscious and there may be no visible scars, the authors say.

In the report, which draws from three decades of research on athletic injuries, the researchers give coaches guidelines to help diagnose the seriousness of a player’s condition.

The report divides concussions into three categories and suggests responses for each condition. An athlete with a grade 1 concussion would be confused, but would not lose consciousness. The disorientation would last only 15 minutes. A player with a grade 2 concussion might be confused, have short-term memory loss, or amnesia for more than 15 minutes. An athlete with a grade 3 concussion would lose consciousness.

The guidelines suggest that coaches remove players with a grade 1 concussion from the game and test them every five minutes to determine whether their disorientation has lessened. A player could return to the game if he or she was symptom-free after 15 minutes.

Students with grade 2 concussions should be taken out of the game and not be allowed to return until they’ve seen a physician and are asymptomatic for one week.

Athletes who sustain grade 3 concussions should be taken to an emergency room immediately, the study says.

Unprepared Coaches

Many sports and health groups, including the National Center for Health Education and the National Institute for Youth Sports Administration, have endorsed the academy’s guidelines. And some school athletic associations have said the recommendations could be useful.

“It’s good to have these guidelines because in some states you’re liable to get somebody who knows nothing, and they’re going to put [injured players] back into the ball game,” said Bernie Saggau, the executive director of the Iowa High School Athletic Association, which regulates interscholastic sports in the state.

But Mr. Saggau and others are concerned that athletic coaches, many of whom are volunteers with no medical background, might feel ill prepared to make such decisions.

“When it comes to head injuries, I would want someone more qualified than a parent-coach to make medical judgments and assess a student’s fitness,” said Judith Young, the executive director of the Reston, Va.-based National Association for Sports and Physical Education, which represents 20,000 physical education teachers and coaches.

School sports activities would be much safer if all schools had athletic trainers to make these kinds of decisions, she said.

Related Tags:


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Addressing Learning Loss: What Schools Need to Accelerate Reading Instruction in K-3
When K-3 students return to classrooms this fall, there will be huge gaps in foundational reading skills. Does your school or district need a plan to address learning loss and accelerate student growth? In this
Content provided by PDX Reading
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Culturally Relevant Pedagogy to Advance Educational Equity
Schools are welcoming students back into buildings for full-time in-person instruction in a few short weeks and now is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and systems to build
Content provided by PowerMyLearning
Classroom Technology Webinar Making Big Technology Decisions: Advice for District Leaders, Principals, and Teachers
Educators at all levels make decisions that can have a huge impact on students. That’s especially true when it comes to the use of technology, which was activated like never before to help students learn

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Well-Being What the Research Says Here's One Way to Keep School Buses Safe During the Pandemic
With nearly all students expected to return to campus in the fall, districts will face big challenges transporting large groups safely.
2 min read
Elementary school students sit on board a school bus after attending in-person classes at school in Wheeling, Ill., on Nov. 19, 2020. Keeping masks on and windows open can reduce the risk of COVID-19, even when students cannot keep distant, new research suggests.
Elementary school students wearing masks sit on board a school bus after attending in-person classes in Wheeling, Ill., last November.
Nam Y. Huh/AP
Student Well-Being Spotlight Spotlight on Student Health & Safety
In this Spotlight, assess what the data says and how educators can play a part in protecting their students, and more.
Student Well-Being Thousands of Kids Lost Parents to COVID-19. Schools Must Prepare to Help the Grieving
While some may view the back-to-school season as a return to “normal,” for those students who’ve lost someone, it will feel anything but.
9 min read
Vickie Quarles, a widow in Memphis, Tenn., lost her husband to COVID-19 in December 2020. She is now raising their five daughters alone. Her older daughter, Alyssa, 18, comforts her in their home.
Vickie Quarles, a widow in Memphis, Tenn., lost her husband to COVID-19 in December 2020. She is now raising their five daughters alone. Her oldest daughter, Alyssa, 18, comforts her in their home.
Karen Pulfer Focht for Education Week
Student Well-Being Nation's Pediatricians Call for All Students, Staff to Wear Masks in School
Countering recent guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control, the physicians say even vaccinated students should wear face coverings
5 min read
Students are reminded to wear a mask amidst other chalk drawings on the sidewalk as they arrive for the first day of school at Union High School in Tulsa, Okla., on Aug. 24, 2020.
A sidewalk-chalk drawing reminds students to wear a mask as they arrive for the first day of school last August at Union High School in Tulsa, Okla.
Mike Simons/Tulsa World via AP