Indiana schools report 1,200 athlete concussions

INDIANAPOLIS (AP/WANE) — Schools across the state have reported more than 1,200 concussions among athletes taking part in the five-month fall sports season, according to the Indiana High School Athletic Association.

Those reports show that football players suffered nearly 70 percent of the reported 1,219 concussions, followed by girls and boys soccer players with about 20 percent. 17 sports are included in the list.

Here is a breakdown of the top four sports:

  • Football: 830
  • Girls Soccer: 155
  • Boys Soccer: 94
  • Volleyball: 73

This is the first year of the IHSAA’s voluntary system for reporting concussions, so the group doesn’t have any comparison figures. Concussion reports were submitted by 189 of the association’s 410 schools during the period between July 1 and Nov. 30. Fewer than half of the schools have submitted their data because the system is also voluntary. The IHSAA said there’s a reason for that.

“The schools are taxed immensely right now. In some schools, they may have an athletic trainer who oversees this sort of thing. While there may be some rural schools that don’t have a full-time athletic trainer and may require a health care provider to watch over this and gather that data that they input. There’s several steps in there that I think could lead you to some different opinions. It’s not that we only have 189 of 410 member schools reporting. That’s just right now, and that’s just a snapshot of today,” IHSAA Assistant Commissioner Chris Kaufman said.

The IHSAA also expects more schools to participate as they get more comfortable with the tracking system.

“The tracking system asks questions such as male or female, grade, sports, did it occur in practice or in a contest, what was the surface, and how quickly they returned- was it same day, less than thirty days or more than thirty days? We’re trying to make it as easy for them to submit that information as we can. We’ll continue to refine it. Even from year to year, maybe there’s additional questions we want to ask or we may add some things to it. There’s a lot of things around it, but I think the most important thing that we’re doing right now is we’re trying to get our arms around setting a benchmark,” Kaufman said.

The system tracks any concussive event, which is defined as any sort of head trauma. That can range from a simple headache to a full-blown concussion.

Allison Elder is an athletic trainer at Northrop High School. She said the system is very easy to use.

“It was very easy to do. It was done all online. I just had to go on to the IHSAA-provided website. It was very simple, and then it was just a quick submit and then it put all of those on a list for us electronically. It’s going to be a transition into reporting it. It’s not something that we have done on a daily basis or on a season basis, but I think it’s all something that we’re going to find rewarding to help our student athletes,” Elder said.

IHSAA Commissioner Bobby Cox said the number of concussions seemed high to him, but that the school reports would become more useful as data continued to be collected.

“The numbers are fairly reflective of what we anticipated with the lion’s share in football and on natural grass. Girls soccer numbers are up there like I thought they would be,” Cox told WTHR-TV. “But I would never have thought about swimmers hitting their heads on the wall and getting a concussion, or one kid who hit himself in the head with a tennis racket and got a concussion.”

Elder said she isn’t surprised by the data, though.

“I think the number actually proves that the laws and the regulations that have been in place are working and education awareness is improving,” Elder said.

Elder said her students are also doing a better job of self-assessing symptoms and reporting them.

“We want these athletes to have a prolonged and healthy life rather than worrying so much about the next game, the next day, the next event. It’s about prolonging the quality of their life with the awareness of these brain injuries,” Elder said.

As for how the IHSAA will use the data, that’s still being decided, but the governing body said it sees a lot of potential benefit.

“I ask for people’s understanding of the process. We are attempting to gather all this information, and we will certainly make it available as it comes in, but we’re trying to provide a benchmark and I hope people can see that’s what’s trying to occur here. I certainly believe that once we have some data out there, when things are introduced, when head protection is introduced, and we have something to compare it to, I think there’s a lot that can be done. We can work to find safer methods of executing our sports that help the student athlete,” Kaufman said.

A state law that took effect in 2012 requires schools to immediately remove from play or practice any athletes suspected of sustaining a concussion. Those athletes are not allowed to return until they have written clearance from a licensed health care provider trained in the evaluation and management of concussions.

The school reported to the IHSAA that 92 percent of athletes who suffered a concussion were able to participate in their sport again within 30 days.

Most attention about concussion safety has been paid to football, but Cox told WRTV that some girls’ sports are also areas of concern.

“The game’s faster now than it’s ever been, and with those girls in basketball and soccer playing with no head protection, then there’s going to be incidences,” he said.

 

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