Tracking High School Concussions
Marin County, CA

What is a concussion?  

A concussion is a mild form of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head that disrupts brain function. The effects of concussions are usually temporary and include headaches and problems with balance, coordination and memory (1). The CDC reported that the number of emergency department (ED) visits for concussions has almost doubled between 2007 and 2013 (2), raising concern over potential brain trauma in athletes. In severe cases, concussions can lead to more traumatic brain injury, which can result in comas and even death. In 2013, severe concussions contributed to 50,000 deaths (2). 

Why should concussions be tracked in youth?

An estimated 1.1 million to 1.9 million U.S. children and teens are treated for a recreational or sport-related concussion every year.  According to a report released by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the true number of youth concussions likely remains under-reported (3).  Monitoring concussions in high school athletes is an important step in preventing more severe brain damage in the future.

All data for this story was collected from Marin County High Schools. 

Tracking Concussions in Marin County, CA

In 2016, schools were asked to document concussions suffered by students regardless of whether they occurred inside or outside of school. Concussions are reported and documented by the athletic trainer at each high school. Athletic trainers record the information regarding the nature of the concussion and any relevant details. These data are shared with Marin County Department of Health and Human Services (MCDHHS), allowing for concussion surveillance in high school aged youth across the county. 

 The data below show the concussions reported for the 2016-17, 2017-18, and 2018-19 academic school years.

Please note that for the 2016-17 school year, some schools only reported aggregated data without any details (such as sex, sport, etc.).

Sport-Related Concussions

An overwhelming majority of concussions in Marin high schools result from sporting events.  Of the reported concussions in the 2016-2019 school year, approximately 84% were related to sports.  However, it is important to note that not all concussions occur while participating in a school sponsored activity.  Concussions that occur outside of school or school-related activities may not be reported to the school and thus may not be represented in these data.

The three sports with the most concussions (in rank order) were football, soccer, and basketball. Varsity and junior varsity athletes suffered the most concussions of all sports related concussions.  

Returning to Learning and Play After a Concussion

Return to Learn

Return to Learn is a protocol that allows a student to return to cognitive skill and participate in school, as determined by their physician.  

As shown in the chart above, the majority of students were able to Return to Learn 3-10 days after their concussion experience.  

It should be noted that the graph includes students who were non-athletes, and thus not required to follow-up on Return status, or students whose injuries occurred at the end of the season or school year and not requiring follow up by athletic program.

Return to Play

The majority of these students returned to playing sports within 3 weeks of suffering a concussion.

The majority of sport related concussions occurred during games rather than in practice. 

Note: on the chart below, you can show or hide a sport type by clicking on its label in the legend.

All data for this story was collected from Marin County High Schools. 

Brain Awareness: Marin


1. Concussion | Mayo Clinic. Accessed July 2018.

2. Traumatic Brain Injury and Concussion: Get the Facts | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed July, 2018.

3. Updated Guidance on Sport-Related Concussions | American Academy of Pediatrics. Accessed July 8, 2019.