Consistency and Variation in School-Level Youth Sports Traumatic Brain Injury Policy Content

J Adolesc Health. 2018 Mar;62(3):255-264. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2017.07.003. Epub 2017 Sep 29.


Purpose: The purpose of the study was to examine the consistency and variation in content of high school written traumatic brain injury (TBI) policies in relation to the three key tenets of youth sports TBI laws.

Methods: A content analysis was conducted on written TBI policies retrieved from 71 high schools currently participating in High School Reporting Information Online. Each policy was independently analyzed by two trained coders. The number and percent of the policies reflecting the three key tenets of state youth sports TBI laws were described and compared on policy enforcement (i.e., strictness of language), policy description (i.e., details and definitions of the requirements), and policy implementation steps (i.e., specific steps for implementing the requirements). Direct quotes were identified to support quantitative findings.

Results: All 71 high school TBI policies contained at least two of the three main TBI law tenets, where 98.6% (n = 70) included the return to play tenet, 83.1% (n = 59) included the removal from play tenet, and 59.2% (n = 42) specified the distribution of TBI information sheets to student-athletes and their parents. Nearly half of the policies (49.3%, n = 35) required parents' signature while only 39.4% (n = 28) required students' signature on the TBI information sheet. The language exhibited wide variance across the 71 TBI policies regarding policy enforcement, policy description, and policy implementation specifications.

Conclusions: All 71 TBI policies covered at least two of the three youth sports TBI law tenets, but with considerable variation. Future research should assess variations by schools within the same state and their impact on TBI rates in school athletics.

Keywords: Content analysis; High school; TBI; Written policy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Athletes / psychology*
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic / diagnosis*
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic / rehabilitation*
  • Health Policy*
  • Humans
  • Return to Sport / standards
  • Schools / standards*
  • Sports / standards
  • Youth Sports / standards*