All 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia enacted concussion laws between 2009 and 2014 to mitigate the consequences of concussion among children and adolescents. In response, many high schools started to implement their respective state law that includes three main tenets: (1) concussion education, (2) removal from play, and (3) return-to-play. We aimed to identify barriers to the implementation of these tenets at the school level.
We conducted 64 semistructured telephone interviews with high school athletic trainers from 26 states and the District of Columbia whose school participated in High School Reporting Information Online during the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 academic years. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis.
All 64 high schools employed at least one athletic trainer, and most schools were public schools (90.6%). Implementation barriers to the concussion education tenet were (1) lack of quality education, (2) lack of buy-in to educational requirements, and (3) lack of time for and attendance at educational meetings. Implementation barriers to the removal from play tenet included (1) athletes underreporting concussion symptoms, (2) lack of communication, (3) resistance from parents and coaches, and (4) sport culture and "old school" mentality. Finally, (1) cost of and access to medical care, (2) resistance from stakeholders, and (3) lack of understanding of concussion were identified as implementation barriers to the return-to-play tenet.
Identification of implementation barriers is key to the successful execution and application of state concussion laws at the school level. Future research should identify strategies to reduce these barriers.