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Mass. High Schools Report Thousands Of Student Athletes' Concussions

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Massachusetts high schools reported more than 4,400 concussions and other head injuries suffered by students while playing sports during the last school year, but that doesn't necessarily mean more students are getting injured, experts said.

It means more schools are reporting head injuries to state public health officials and there is more awareness around the issue, they said. The injuries were reported by about 360 public and private schools.

It was the second year the surveys were collected under the state's 2010 concussion law, and about 150 more schools submitted data this time around. The total number of reported head injuries rose by about 1,000 over the previous year.

"That's good news, not bad news," Carlene Pavlos, director of the Bureau of Community Health and Prevention at the Department of Public Health, told The Boston Globe. "It's not that they weren't happening before; it's that there was less awareness and less identification."

The surveys were due to the state on Aug. 31 from public middle and high schools as well as private schools affiliated with the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association. About half of the 700 schools complied, including most public high schools. There is no penalty for schools that do not complete the survey.

The numbers reported to the state are not broken down by sport or gender, but that should be done, some said.

"Data helps drive change and education, and I think that would be an important thing for them to add," said Desiree Jubinville, athletic trainer at Andover High School.

Boston College High School, a Roman Catholic school for boys in grades seven through 12, reported 63 head injuries, the most of any school.

"I don't feel that we're higher than anywhere else; I feel that we are just really conscientious and meticulous about our reporting," said school nurse Theresa Hartel. "I have a hard time understanding how really big schools that have a lot of sports are not reporting concussions."

The data will be studied by the Sports Medicine Committee of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, which oversees high school sports, said the committee's chairman, Dr. Alan Ashare.

"I think it might tell us where we have deficiencies in reporting, probably some deficiencies in education," he said.

This program aired on November 25, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

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