MONDAY, Nov. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Any athlete believed to have suffered a concussion should be removed from play until evaluated by a physician who is trained in assessing and managing sports concussions, says a new position statement issued by the American Academy of Neurology.

The statement, released Monday, includes five recommendations directed at policymakers who develop procedures to be followed when an athlete suffers a concussion during a game or practice.

About 3 million sports-related concussions occur each year in the United States, and concussions are second only to motor vehicle crashes as a leading cause of traumatic brain injury among people ages 15 to 24, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"While the majority of concussions are self-limited injuries, catastrophic results can occur and we do not yet know the long-term effects of multiple concussions. We owe it to athletes to advocate for policy measures that promote high quality, safe care for those participating in contact sports," Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher, chair of the AAN's sports neurology section and director of the University of Michigan's Neurosport program, said in an academy news release.

The position statement also says that no athletes should be allowed to participant in sports if they are still experiencing concussion-related symptoms, and a neurologist or physician with proper training should be consulted before an athlete who has suffered a concussion is cleared to return to play.

A certified athletic trainer should be present at all sporting events, including practices, where athletes are at risk for concussion, the academy says. In addition, more intensive education efforts are needed to improve the understanding of sports concussions by all athletes, parents and coaches.

"We need to make sure coaches, trainers, and even parents are properly educated on this issue, and that the right steps have been taken before an athlete returns to the field," Kutcher said.

The academy is updating its guideline on the management of sports concussion that defines concussion grade levels and provides recommendations.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about sports concussions.