More Utah kids are getting concussions at recess than playing football

Sep 18, 2019, 10:13 AM

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a disruption in the normal function of the brain that can be caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, or penetrating head injury. Everyone is at risk for a TBI, especially children and older adults. Photo courtesy CDC.


SALT LAKE CITY — From 2016-2019, more than 1,500 Utah students suffered a concussion at school. And that number is likely underreported, said an expert.

Tracy Barney, the traumatic brain injury coordinator at the Utah Department of Health (UDOH), joined Inside Sources guest hosts Jim Bennett and Jill Atwood to talk about Utah students who suffer head injuries at school.

Concussions at school: recess and PE

Barney said the UDOH’s numbers show more than one-third (37%) of concussion occur during lunch recess or PE (physical education) class.

The most common activities in which a student suffered a concussion were running (17%), playing football (10%) or walking (10%), according to UDOH.

Most concussions reported at school occurred during September, October, and November.

“A concussion can have a dramatic impact on a student’s ability to attend and succeed in school and may have lasting effects on their health and wellbeing,” Barney said.

A real increase — or just better awareness?

Atwood, who is the director of communications for Veterans Affairs of the Rocky Mountain Network, asked Barney if there was an increase in concussions or if the public was just more aware or placing more significance on head injuries.

Barney said that conversations about concussions in professional sports, mainly the NFL, have generated greater awareness of concussions. Barney also suggested that the public may be more aware of the long-lasting effects of concussions than in the past.

“[Concussions] are very underreported,” said Barney.

The reported number of traumatic brain injuries comes from emergency rooms, hospitalizations or the voluntary school reporting system, Barney said. And it likely underreports the number of head injuries during school, she said.

“I think we’re just becoming more aware of concussions,” said Barney.

Making football safer for kids

She added tackle football in schools is safer now because students are taught how to tackle more safely.

The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t specify what age is appropriate to start tackle football, but Barney said that “delaying the age at which tackling is introduced to the game would likely decrease the risk of these injuries.”

The Concussion Legacy Foundation states that it “strongly recommends you delay enrolling your child in tackle football until the age of 14,” according to

During the 2018-2019 school year, 66% of Utah schools required coaches or trainers to receive materials on concussions, according to UDOH.

“Training is key. Teachers and coaches alike should know the signs of a concussion and what to do when a student has sustained one,” said Barney.

Training the parents

In addition to teachers and coaches, Barney stressed that parents need to be aware of the signs of concussion, especially sudden memory loss and headaches and confusion.

“Most students who sustain a concussion return to pre-injury functioning within three to four weeks of their injury. However, in about 10–20% of cases, symptoms linger beyond this time,” said Barney.

Bennett, a former United Utah Party congressional candidate and current host of the Dinner Table Politics podcast, asked what are the long-term health risks of a traumatic brain injury or TBI.

“Depression is a big one,” she said. “Also, attention and loss of balance. Not sleeping right or always feeling foggy or confused. Those are ongoing symptoms and [there] can be a lifelong effect if they’re not addressed.”

Signs a person might show after experiencing a bump or blow to the head include:

Loss of memory before or immediately after hitting their head.

Signs of being dazed, confused or moving clumsily.

Headaches, fatigue, nausea or vomiting, double or blurry vision,

Feeling “sluggish” and “foggy”;

Symptoms can linger for weeks or even months.

If you or a loved one has experienced a concussion and want to determine if you qualify for services, please contact the UDOH Health Resource Line at 1-888-222-2542 or

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.


suicide prevention Utah...

Emma Keddington

Suicide rates increasing in Utah, but so are available resources

One expert said the increase in suicide rates in Utah indicate a need for Utahns to actively engage in suicide prevention.

5 hours ago

How to deal with seasonal depression...

Allessandra Harris

Don’t be SAD this winter; ways to diminsh seasonal depression

Shorter days and less sunlight cause seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or seasonal depression, for many people throughout the winter.

9 hours ago

Weight lifting for seniors is important to help with bone density....

Amanda Dickson

Why lifting weights is something seniors shouldn’t skip

Lifting weights is important for all ages, but especially for seniors who may be experiencing losses in bone density.

1 day ago

Image of a mother nursing an infant. Intermountain Health is now offering lactation consultations v...

Britt Johnson

Telehealth lactation consultations now available in Utah

Intermountain's telehealth lactation consultations began during the pandemic, and have since proven a popular alternative.

2 days ago

Image of an Alaska Air flight taking off from Los Angeles International Airport. The FAA convened a...

Pete Muntean, CNN

FAA announces new pilot mental health committee

The issue of pilot mental health surfaced again in October when an off-duty pilot was charged with trying to crash an Alaska Airlines flight.

3 days ago

Social engagement is one habit that could help protect your brain as you age....

Kristen Rogers, CNN

What’s your Brain Care Score? The answer may indicate your dementia risk

A new tool named the Brain Care Score may help you asses risks of stroke and dementia while also advising how you can lower your risk.

4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Human hand holding a protest banner stop vaping message over a crowded street background....

Prosperous Utah Communities

Utah’s Battle to Protect Youth from Vaping Epidemic Faces New Threat as Proposed Rule Threatens Progress

Utah's strict standards of nicotine levels in vaping products are at risk, increasing health hazards associated with use. Read more about how you can advocate for a better future for Utah's youth.

More Utah kids are getting concussions at recess than playing football