Are Youth Sports Concussion Statutes Working?

27 Pages Posted: 17 May 2018

See all articles by Francis X. Shen

Francis X. Shen

University of Minnesota Law School; MGH Center for Law, Brain & Behavior

Date Written: May 2, 2018


All fifty states have now enacted a youth sports concussion law. But there’s a problem: we don’t know how these laws are actually being implemented. In this Essay — prepared as part of the Duquesne University School of Law Symposium Athletes, Veterans, and Neuroscience: A Symposium on Traumatic Brain Injury and Law — I address the question: Are state youth sports concussion statutes working? The Article reviews what we currently know about the implementation of state youth sports concussion laws.

I offer five conclusions about the current state of concussion laws. First, there is generally widespread acceptance and appreciation of the concussion laws. Second, in general it appears that most high schools have implemented a concussion protocol (roughly) consistent with state law. Third, stakeholders may be resistant to legislatively-mandated concussion protocols when following those protocols is perceived to interfere with an athletic goal, or a doctor-patient relationship. Fourth, it appears that state concussion laws have contributed to better recognition and reporting of concussions. Fifth, across multiple states, there is a need for more dissemination of concussion education.

But there remain large gaps in knowledge about effectiveness. Moreover, we know virtually nothing systematic about the implementation of the law in non-school youth leagues, and the scientific knowledge base on elementary age athletes remains limited. I argue that the primary policy challenge going forward is, amidst this lack of knowledge, to facilitate accurate communication of risks and benefits to allow for informed athlete and parent decision-making.

Keywords: neuroscience, law, neurolaw, evidence, brain, traumatic brain injury, concussion, sports concussion, football, concussion statute, brain health, public health, liability

Suggested Citation

Shen, Francis X., Are Youth Sports Concussion Statutes Working? (May 2, 2018). 56 Duquesne University Law Review 7 (2018) (Symposium Issue: Athletes, Veterans, and Neuroscience: A Symposium on Traumatic Brain Injury and Law), Available at SSRN:

Francis X. Shen (Contact Author)

University of Minnesota Law School ( email )

Minneapolis, MN
United States

MGH Center for Law, Brain & Behavior ( email )

55 Fruit Street
Boston, MA 02114
United States

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