In late October, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the National Research Council released an extensive report on sports-related concussions in children and teens that found helmets do not prevent concussions in youth athletes. And according to the IOM report, “Sports-Related Concussion in Youth: Improving the Science, Changing the Culture,” despite an increased awareness of concussions, there remains a culture “that resists both the self-reporting of concussions and compliance with appropriate concussion management plans.”
The report was authored by a committee of experts, including the Center for Injury Research and Prevention’s (CIRP) Kristy Arbogast, PhD, and the University of Pennsylvania’s Susan S. Margulies, PhD. CIRP’s Engineering Core Director and an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Arbogast studies the biomechanics of pediatric injury, child safety seats, and concussion care. Other members of the committee include George Washington University’s Robert Graham, MD, the Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology’s B.J. Casey, PhD, and Kasisomayajula Viswanath, PhD, of Harvard University and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
In a post on the CIRP blog, Dr. Arbogast writes that the answer to whether helmets prevent concussions is “no.” While helmets “have been proven effective at preventing skull fractures and more serious traumatic brain injuries and should continue to be used in competitive and recreational sports … the Committee found that research was needed to better understand the biomechanics of how pediatric concussions occur before any protective device can be scientifically proven to prevent them,” Dr. Arbogast notes.
Because of this, there must be a sea change in the way athletes and coaches approach concussions, she says. “There must be a shift in the culture of athletics — among parents, coaches, school personnel, and the youth athletes themselves — to treat concussion as an injury that requires serious attention, even if it means missing “the big game” or an entire season of play.”