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Am J Sports Med. 2011 Nov;39(11):2304-10. doi: 10.1177/0363546511423503. Epub 2011 Oct 3.

Assessment and management of sport-related concussions in United States high schools.

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  • 1Sports Concussion Clinic, Division of Sports Medicine, Children's Hospital Boston, 319 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA.



Little existing data describe which medical professionals and which medical studies are used to assess sport-related concussions in high school athletes.


To describe the medical providers and medical studies used when assessing sport-related concussions. To determine the effects of medical provider type on timing of return to play, frequency of imaging, and frequency of neuropsychological testing.


Descriptive epidemiology study.


All concussions recorded by the High School Reporting Information Online (HS RIO) injury surveillance system during the 2009 to 2010 academic year were included. χ(2) analyses were conducted for categorical variables. Fisher exact test was used for nonparametric data. Logistic regression analyses were used when adjusting for potential confounders. Statistical significance was considered for P < .05.


The HS RIO recorded 1056 sport-related concussions, representing 14.6% of all injuries. Most (94.4%) concussions were assessed by athletic trainers (ATs), 58.8% by a primary care physician. Few concussions were managed by specialists. The assessment of 21.2% included computed tomography. Computerized neuropsychological testing was used for 41.2%. For 50.1%, a physician decided when to return the athlete to play; for 46.2%, the decision was made by an AT. After adjusting for potential confounders, no associations between timing of return to play and the type of provider (physician vs AT) deciding to return the athlete to play were found.


Concussions account for nearly 15% of all sport-related injuries in high school athletes. The timing of return to play after a sport-related concussion is similar regardless of whether the decision to return the athlete to play is made by a physician or an AT. When a medical doctor is involved, most concussions are assessed by primary care physicians as opposed to subspecialists. Computed tomography is obtained during the assessment of 1 of every 5 concussions occurring in high school athletes.

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