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Student-Athlete Concussion Reporting Adjusted in Massachusetts

Massachusetts is changing the way it requests information about concussions and head injuries from public schools after fewer than one-third of the state's schools complied with a new law, according to The Boston Globe.

Under the state's youth-concussion law, which was enacted in July 2010, the superintendent of each school district or the director of a school is required to maintain "complete and accurate records" to prove the district's or school's compliance with all requirements.

Nearly 690 public and private middle and high schools were supposed to submit their data from the 2011-12 school year to the state department of public health by Aug. 31, 2012. However, nearly a year later, only 213 of those 689 schools have actually done so, The Globe reported.

Of the schools that did report their 2011-12 data, 3,450 students suffered a suspected concussion or other head injury during "extracurricular athletic activities," according to the paper. Public-health officials in the state made it clear to the paper that the figures weren't conclusive by any means, considering how many schools failed to report their head-injury data from the 2011-12 school year.

As a result, the state's new concussion-reporting form highlights the annual Aug. 31 reporting deadline, according to the paper, and also includes "data definitions" to help increase the accuracy of reports.

Preliminary 2011-12 concussion data compiled by The Globe last fall showed a wide degree of variation among schools. While a number of schools reported 40 or more head injuries sustained during extracurricular activities, 16 other schools reported zero concussions during the 2011-12 school year.

"What's really scary is these schools that had zero did not have zero, and that means concussions aren't being diagnosed," said Chris Nowinski, the executive director of the Sports Legacy Institute, to the paper.

Massachusetts isn't the only state struggling with gathering accurate data on youth-athlete concussions. The Idaho High School Activity Association sent surveys to 152 schools to begin collecting data on head injuries sustained during the fall of 2012 by student-athletes, my colleague Gina Cairney reported earlier this year, but only 68 schools responded.

Also earlier this year, a bill was introduced in Connecticut that would require the state to establish a two-year pilot program to study the incidence of injuries in high school sports, with concussions singled out as a point of interest.

Now that all but one state has some form of a youth-concussion law, accurate concussion-data gathering appears to be the next big frontier for states to cross.

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