Impact of a State Law on Physician Practice in Sports-Related Concussions

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Abstract

Objective

To determine physician-reported adherence to and support of the 2010 Massachusetts youth concussion law, as well as barriers to care and clinical practice in the context of legislation.

Study design

Primary care physicians (n = 272) in a large pediatric network were eligible for a cross-sectional survey in 2014. Survey questions addressed key policy and practice provisions: concussion knowledge, state regulations and training, practice patterns, referrals, patient characteristics, and barriers to care. Analyses explored relationships between practice and policy, adjusting for physician demographic and practice characteristics.

Results

The survey response rate was 64% among all responders (173 of 272). A total of 146 respondents who had evaluated, treated, or referred patients with a suspected sports-related concussion in the previous year were eligible for analysis. The vast majority (90%) of providers agreed that the current Massachusetts laws regarding sports concussions are necessary and support the major provisions. Three-quarters (74%) had taken a required clinician training course on concussions. Those who took training courses were significantly more likely to develop individualized treatment plans (OR, 3.6; 95% CI, 1.1-11.0). Physician training did not improve screening of youth with concussion for depression or substance use. Most physicians (77%) advised patients to refrain from computer, telephone, or television for various time periods. Physicians reported limited communication with schools.

Conclusions

Primary care physicians report being comfortable with the diagnosis and management of concussions, and support statewide regulations; however, adherence to mandated training and specific legal requirements varied. Broader and more frequent training may be necessary to align current best evidence with clinical care and state-mandated practice.

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