Academic journal article American Journal of Health Education

CDC's Approach to Educating Coaches about Sports-Related Concussion

Academic journal article American Journal of Health Education

CDC's Approach to Educating Coaches about Sports-Related Concussion

Article excerpt


Sports-related concussions can happen to any athlete in an), sport. Each year in the United States, an estimated 1.6-3.8 million sports and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) occur, most of which can be classified as concussions. To help coaches prevent, recognize, and better manage sports-related concussions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (CDC's Injury Center) applied a comprehensive health-education approach to developing a multimedia tool kit for high school athletic coaches. From developing an expert panel and pretesting message concepts to pilot testing, promoting, and evaluating the final product, CDC has shown that this undertaking is highly effective. Results of the pilot study and promotion efforts show that the tool kit is well received by coaches and school officials and that it meets a critical health education need.



Every year, about 1.4 million Americans sustain a traumatic brain injury (TBI). (1) A TBI is defined as a blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the function of the brain. The leading causes of TBI include falls, motor vehicle-traffic crashes, struck by/against events (i.e., collisions in sports), and assaults. (1) The severity of a TBI may range from mild (i.e., a brief change in mental status or consciousness) to severe (i.e., an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia). An estimated 1.6-3.8 million sports- and recreation-related TBIs occur in the United States each year. Most of these are mild traumatic brain injuries (MTBIs or concussions) that are not treated in a hospital or emergency department. (2) Concussions can happen to any athlete in any sport, though the risk for concussion increases in collision sports. The proportion of these concussions that are repeat injuries is unknown; however, health risks increase among persons who have had at least one prior concussion. (3,4) Repeated concussions over an extended period (i.e., months or years) can result in cumulative neurologic and cognitive deficits, (5,6) but multiple concussions within a short period (i.e., hours, days, or weeks) can be catastrophic, or even fatal. The latter phenomenon, termed second-impact syndrome, has been reported frequently since it was first characterized in 1984. (7-9)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was charged under the Children's Health Act of 2000 to implement a national TBI education and awareness campaign. In response to this mandate, CDC developed a tool kit on MTBI for health care providers. The purpose of the tool kit is to improve clinical management and outcomes for patients with MTBI. Since January 2003, CDC has disseminated more than 200,000 of these tool kits to health care providers.

Encouraged by the positive response from health care providers who received the tool kit, CDC developed a second multimedia educational tool kit for high school athletic coaches. This tool kit, Heads Up: Concussion in High School Sports, educates coaches about sports-related concussions and the need to prevent, recognize, and manage concussions appropriately.

This article describes the process undertaken by CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (CDC's Injury Center) to research, develop, test, promote, disseminate, and evaluate educational materials for the coaches' tool kit. Staff at CDC applied a comprehensive health education approach to this initiative to ensure its widespread use and adoption by coaches in high schools nationwide. This approach can be applied to other educational efforts to raise awareness of health issues among target audiences.


The tool kit was developed using qualitative and quantitative research methods, including literature reviews, input from experts, focus groups, and a telephone-based survey of coaches. …

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