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American Medical Association Adopts Policy to Prevent Youth Concussions

The American Medical Association adopted a new policy Tuesday during its annual meeting in Chicago aimed at reducing the risk of concussions among youth-athletes.

The new policy "promotes the adoption of requirements" that youth-athletes suspected of having suffered a concussion must be removed immediately from play and not be allowed to return until they obtain written approval from a licensed physician. The association additionally supports the adoption of "evidence-based, age-specific guidelines on the evaluation and management of concussion in all athletes for use by physicians, other health professionals, and athletic organizations."

As part of the new policy, the AMA will work "with interested agencies and organizations" to identify "harmful practices" in youth-sports training, establish health standards for youth-sports training, and promote educational efforts to increase knowledge about concussions among youth-athletes.

Likewise, the AMA encourages physicians to "address the developmental readiness and medical suitability of children and adolescents to participate in organized sports," along with informing youth-athletes and their parents and/or guardians about the risks of sports-related concussions. Additionally, the organization supports physicians assisting in local or statewide efforts to "evaluate, implement, and promote measures to prevent or reduce the consequences of concussions, repetitive head impacts, and other injuries in youth sports."

"It is essential that athletes know how crucial it is to notify their coach, trainer, physician or parent if they've sustained any type of head injury because even mild cases of traumatic brain injury may have serious and prolonged consequences," said Dr. Jack Resneck Jr., an AMA board member, in a statement. "By raising awareness of the serious risks associated with concussions and ensuring that the appropriate guidelines are in place, we can reduce the number of young athletes who may return to the game too soon, which can put their health at further risk."

In addition, the AMA is urging organizations to support research that will "assess the short- and long-term cognitive, emotional, behavioral, neurobiological, and neuropathological consequences of concussions and repetitive head impacts," as well as studies to identify the causes of concussions and methods of detection. The latter goal is to "reduce the dependence of self-reporting," which youth-athletes have exploited at times in the past.

For instance, back in 2013, physicians from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, surveyed 120 high school football players, 30 of whom had previously suffered a concussion and 84 of whom reported going through concussion education. Fifty-three percent of those players said they would "always or sometimes continue to play with a headache sustained from an injury," while only roughly 40 percent would tell their coach immediately if they were experiencing concussion symptoms."

Youth-concussion awareness and research has exponentially expanded in recent years, as long-time readers of this blog are long aware. The AMA's decision to throw its weight behind youth-concussion prevention only figures to continue that trend moving forward.


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