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Football-Loving States Drop The Ball on Concussion: Study
  • Robert Preidt
  • Posted December 3, 2020

Football-Loving States Drop The Ball on Concussion: Study

States with strong football cultures have often fumbled measures to protect young players who've suffered concussions, researchers say.

They analyzed youth concussion laws introduced by states between 2007 and 2014, specifically guidelines requiring a 24-hour delay before sending a player with a possible concussion back onto the field.

The researchers found that states with college teams in strong conferences -- in particular the Southeastern Conference (SEC) -- were among the last to adopt regulations on youth concussions.

The same was true of states with high rates of high school football participation, according to findings recently published in the journal Social Science & Medicine.

"We explored a lot of different ways of measuring college football presence, and the thing that just kept standing out was SEC membership," said lead author Thomas Rotolo, a sociologist at Washington State University in Pullman.

"Every college town thinks they have a strong college football presence, but the SEC is a very unique conference," he added in a university news release.

His former WSU colleague -- co-author Michael Lengefeld, a former Texas high school football player -- said football is culturally important throughout the South, and SEC states were more resistant to head injury protocols.

"This SEC variable was similar to the South effect, but not all southern states have an SEC school -- and in SEC states the resistance to concussion laws was a bit stronger," he said. Lengefeld is now at Goucher College in Baltimore.

He noted that the SEC has the largest number of viewers and brings in more profits than any other conference.

Researchers also found that states with a higher number of women in the labor force were early adopters of youth concussion laws.

Washington state, Oregon and New Mexico were among the first to adopt new return-to-play guidelines advocated by the National Football League. Georgia and Mississippi were among the last.

"There's clearly something culturally going on that was different in those states," Lengefeld said.

The methodology used in this study can also be applied to analyze how other health policies are enacted across different states, according to Lengefeld.

"As we were submitting this research for publication, COVID-19 was just starting, and we noticed all the differences in the way states are behaving," he said. "It's not new for sociologists to study the diffusion of laws at the state level, but this is another way of doing that that incorporates a set of ideas about culture."

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on concussion.

SOURCE: Washington State University, news release, Dec. 1, 2020

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