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Thousands of Mass. Student-Athletes Suffer Head Injuries in 2011-12

Nearly 3,000 middle and high school student-athletes in Massachusetts suffered sports-related concussions during the 2011-12 school year, according to data from the state health department obtained by the Boston Globe.

The state's youth-concussion law, passed in 2010, requires school or district personnel to maintain records of all student-athlete head injuries and submit them to the health department at the end of each school year.

A total of 164 schools—about a quarter of the total number of middle and high schools in the state—completed and returned the form for the 2011-12 school year, according to the Globe. Schools are not required to deliver sport-by-sport concussion information; they're only asked the total number of extracurricular athletic head injuries sustained during each individual school year.

According to the paper's account of the health department data, Boston College High School, which serves grades 7-12, led the way with 76 student-athlete head injuries during the 2011-12 school year. Lexington High School, in Lexington, was next with 69 head injuries sustained during extracurricular athletic activities.

"I think kids now are more aware and recognize the dangers of head trauma," said Jon Bartlett, athletic director at Boston College High, to the paper. "You're seeing bigger, faster, stronger kids these days, so the collisions are a little more violent than years ago."

However, more than 500 schools in the state had not submitted student-athlete head-injury information by the August deadline, according to the paper. The law doesn't specify the penalty for schools that fail to submit information by the deadline.

Twenty-nine schools that completed the survey in 2011-12 reported head-injury counts in the single digits, according to the Globe. A sports-concussion expert from the Boston Children's Hospital told the paper that such low counts suggest that some students and schools are likely underreporting head injuries.

Some student-athletes could still be underselling the long-term impacts of concussions, too. According to a study recently presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics national conference in New Orleans, only 38 percent of high school football players interviewed admitted concern about the long-term effects of concussions.

Of the 134 student-athletes surveyed, 32 percent reported they didn't go to a doctor despite having concussion-like symptoms at least once in the past two years.

On a related note: Massachusetts isn't the only state whose department of health is tracking student-athlete head injuries and concussions.

The Minnesota health department has begun tracking concussions at 42 high schools, according to CBS Minnesota. Through the first seven weeks of the fall sports season, a total of 373 student-athletes have been diagnosed with a concussion, according to the department's data.

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