Home Ethics Contemporary Issues Do Coaches Really Understand Concussions?

Do Coaches Really Understand Concussions?


Many high schools across the United States do not have access to certified athletic trainers. This absence of healthcare professionals at practice and competition will ultimately affect the prevention and management of sport-related concussion. At times, sport coaches have the responsibility to make return-to-play decisions regarding concussed athletes at the high school and youth levels.

A study by Guilmette et al. (2007) investigated concussion knowledge, concussion management, and the information sources of high school head football coaches. The study placed an emphasis on surveying coaches who did not have access to athletic trainers in practice/competition. Over 200 surveys were sent to head football coaches at New England public high schools. Many of the coaches who responded indicated an absence of an athletic trainer at practice or did not have access to an athletic trainer at their school.

Most of the coaches (80%) received concussion information from coaching associations, conferences, or media outlets. In addition, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) concussion toolkit was received by 31% of the coaches. Results showed that the CDC’s concussion toolkit was rated as a ‘very helpful’ information resource by over half of the coaches.

The findings of this study indicate that head football coaches demonstrate a decent level of knowledge about sport-related concussions, but should be educated on a year to year basis. Coaches indicated confusion/disorientation as the single most important indicator to identify if an athlete had sustained a concussion. One of the main issues in preventing and managing concussions at the high school level is the lack of concussions reported by student athletes. It is necessary for coaches to educate their athletes about the damaging effects of sustaining a concussion and the potential effects of not reporting symptoms. This issue should be addressed by educational efforts and coaches constantly encouraging athletes to report signs and symptoms.


Guilmette, T., Malia, L., & McQuiggan, M. (2007). Concussion understanding and management among New England high school football coaches. Brain Injury, 21(10),1039-1047.

Dr. Brandon Spradley is the Director of Continuing Education at the Academy, and can be reached at bspradley@ussa.edu.


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