With all the recent news about head injuries in amateur and professional sports, including reports of suicides linked to head injuries, one would think Massachusetts schools would be eager to comply with new state head injury reporting rules. But with the start of the school year just days away, only about 40 of 430 school districts have turned in the forms detailing head injuries and suspected concussions suffered by students. State regulators are trying to get a handle on the number of children getting hurt and develop strategies to prevent lethal head injuries.

The Boston Globe recently surveyed school districts to see which ones had complied and which had not. The newspaper got variations on “the dog ate my homework” story. Some school officials said they were confused about the reporting deadline. One athletic director suggested the forms were overdue because many athletic directors aren’t around in the summer. Another AD said he thinks his school turned in the stats but he wasn’t sure.

The Globe says dozens of students suffered head injuries in 2012. Football contact caused the most, followed by soccer, hockey and baseball. A Brookline public health expert says, “It’s certainly a concern if schools are not following the law.” He says dealing with the public health consequences of head trauma is not possible without accurate data. The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, the governing body for public and some private school sports programs, says it is concerned about the non-compliance and blames the “lack of a firm, stated and enforced deadline” for submitting the reports. All public and middle schools serving grades 6 and higher, parochial, and some private schools are required to comply. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health posted a reporting form for schools on its website, and school administrators will get another reminder via a mailing soon. The reporting deadline is this month.

Student athletes are stronger and playing harder than ever before. Injuries happen; they are part of sports. But disability or death from an unrecognized concussion or brain trauma is not part of the game. Schools that fail to follow the law can be held accountable if a student athlete gets hurt. Always consult an experienced attorney if there is any question about whether the situation was handled properly.

Source: The Boston Globe, “Schools slow to provide head-injury records,” Lisa Cocian, Aug. 5, 2012