How Dangerous are Youth Sports for the Brain? A Review of the Evidence

7 Berkeley Journal of Entertainment & Sports Law 67 (2018)

126 Pages Posted: 2 Sep 2018

See all articles by Carly Rasmussen

Carly Rasmussen

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities; Stanford Law School

Sydney Diekmann

Shen Neurolaw Lab

Christine Egan

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

Tyler Johnson

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - School of Law

Francis X. Shen

Harvard University - Center for Bioethics; Harvard University - Department of Psychiatry; Harvard University - Harvard Law School; MGH Center for Law, Brain & Behavior

Date Written: August 3, 2018

Abstract

In this Article, we review over 100 studies to answer the question: How likely is it that a youth athlete will sustain a concussion? On the basis of this review, we argue that both ends of the current concussion debate are problematic. On one hand, the data clearly suggest that the vast majority of youth athletes will not sustain a concussion. Moreover, a significant proportion of those who do experience a concussion will see their post-concussion symptoms dissipate within three weeks. On the other hand, the data also clearly shows that there are serious, non-zero risks of brain injury from playing contact sports before and during high school. These risks are elevated in collision sports, and current data collection methods likely underestimate actual incidence rates. Problematically, we find that while over 100 studies have been conducted and give us credible estimates for concussion incidence, this incidence data is absent from current educational materials delivered to athletes and parents. We argue, based on this data, that concussion risk can be better communicated to athletes and parents. The data on incidence rates remains incomplete, but it is still informative. We should not hide it from youth athletes.

Keywords: concussion, sports, brain, neurolaw, neuroscience, brain injury, football, hockey, athlete, law and neuroscience

Suggested Citation

Rasmussen, Carly and Diekmann, Sydney and Egan, Christine and Johnson, Tyler and Shen, Francis X., How Dangerous are Youth Sports for the Brain? A Review of the Evidence (August 3, 2018). 7 Berkeley Journal of Entertainment & Sports Law 67 (2018), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3231973

Carly Rasmussen

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities ( email )

420 Delaware St. SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

Stanford Law School ( email )

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Sydney Diekmann

Shen Neurolaw Lab ( email )

420 Delaware St. SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

Christine Egan

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities ( email )

420 Delaware St. SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

Tyler Johnson

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - School of Law ( email )

229 19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

Francis X. Shen (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Center for Bioethics ( email )

641 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02115
United States

Harvard University - Department of Psychiatry ( email )

Boston, MA
United States

Harvard University - Harvard Law School ( email )

1563 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

MGH Center for Law, Brain & Behavior ( email )

55 Fruit Street
Boston, MA 02114
United States

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