Concussions in North Carolina – What You Need to Know

March 28, 2016

Will Smith’s movie, Concussion, debut[ed late last year] among widespread talk about the real dangers of concussions to sports players. It has been a longstanding practice in the sports industry that a concussed player just “got his bell rung” and should get back in the game and shake it off.

Concussions are more than getting your bell rung, they are traumatic brain injuries (TBI) suffered by someone who has been hit violently.  Concussions are physiological injuries to brain cells…, and can happen with one good hit. After many years of ignoring the problem, major sports institutions such as the NFL, NHL, NCAA, and others like them are finally being held responsible for TBI’s. Until recently they preferred to protect their bottom line rather than accept the responsibility for ignoring the dangers of concussions and the resulting long-term effects of brain injuries such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

All but one state in the United States has a form of “When in Doubt, Sit Them Out” law. North Carolina law, N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-112 (23), and State Board of Education policy require concussion education for coaches, players, parents and other personnel, and have strict guidelines before middle and high school athletes may return to practice or play.  Some of the highlights include:

  • If a person is in any way affiliated with the interscholastic athletic activity (coach, school nurse, athletic director, first responder, volunteer, student participating in the athletic activity, and parents of those students), they are to be provided a concussion and head injury information sheet and will be required to sign the sheet and return it to the coach where they will be maintained (see #4).
  • If a participating student in an interscholastic athletic activity exhibits signs or symptoms consistent with concussion, the student must be removed from the activity at that time and will not be allowed to return to play that day. Further, before the student can return to play, he must be evaluated and received written clearance from either 1) a licensed physician with training in concussion management, 2) a licensed neuropsychologist with training in concussion management and working in consultation with a licensed physician, 3) an athletic trainer, 4) a physician assistant under the supervision of a licensed physician, or 5) a nurse practitioner under the supervision of a licensed physician.
  • Each school must develop a specific action plan to deal with serious injuries in which the conditions of the patient may deteriorate rapidly. Details of the plan must be in writing, reviewed by an athletic trainer licensed in North Carolina, approved by the school principal, distributed to all affiliated personnel, posted conspicuously at all venues, and reviewed and rehearsed annually by all interscholastic athletic activity personnel.
  • Each school is required to maintain complete and accurate records of their compliance with this statute.

While North Carolina’s statute is a good start to educating and preventing traumatic brain injuries, it can be better. Other states have adopted rules that further protect the players, including:

  • Requiring TBI training for coaches,
  • Requiring athletes to be educated on the symptoms and protocol for concussions and other TBI,
  • Requiring parents to be notified of a suspected or diagnosed TBI.

To learn more about how the civil justice system has helped play an important role in furthering the education and cause of legal justice for concussion and traumatic brain injuries, please visit

If you or a loved one has suffered a traumatic brain injury, please contact one of our experienced attorneys to discuss your legal options by calling us at 704-376-1911 or toll-free at 800-977-3077, click on the chat button, or use our contact form to get started right away.

The lawyers of Charles G. Monnett III & Associates have more than 50 combined years of experience representing plaintiffs in state and federal courts throughout North Carolina and much of the Southeast in matters involving brain and spinal cord injuries, auto and truck crashes, wrongful death, medical malpractice, defective products and workplace injuries.   Visit for more information.