Arizona is doing some pioneering work in terms of youth athletes and concussions, by creating a brain-injury registry for high school students.
The Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix Monday unveiled its plans to launch the Barrow Concussion Network, which it touted as “the most comprehensive concussion prevention, treatment and education program for young athletes in the nation.”
As part of that network, Barrow will also create a research registry that will track concussed student athletes. That registry is meant to be a tool for Barrow neurologists and researchers to research into the long-term effects of concussion.
Spearheaded by Barrow doctors and the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA), the network will include mandatory concussion education, voluntary pre-injury testing, post-injury medical resources to all AIA schools and research on injured Arizona students, according to the Barrow Institute’s press release.
Barrow, the AIA, the Arizona Cardinals and A.T. Still University are partnering on the network.
Starting this week all Arizona student athletes will have the chance to undergo ImPACT testing, a concussion evaluation system that helps determine when an athlete is well enough to return to play following a concussion. According to Barrow, this marks the is the first time every student athlete will be able to take the test.
The free testing is being made available through a grant by Dick’s Sporting Goods’ Protecting Athletes through Concussion Education (PACE) program.
“The Barrow Concussion Network represents the only statewide comprehensive concussion management program in the nation,” Dr. Javier Cárdenas, a Barrow neurologist, said in a statement. “We now have all the tools to effectively evaluate and manage concussions in our state’s young athletes.”
Here’s how the voluntary ImPACT testing works. The young athletes will first take a baseline test to measure their cognitive level. When an athlete suffers a concussion, they will repeat the test and athletic trainers and doctors will compare the scores to determine if the athlete is ready to return to play. This “computerized test uses words, shapes, colors and patterns to measure symptoms, reaction times and processing speeds,” according to Barrow.
“With this test, we’ll be able to look at how the brain is working now compared to how it was working before a concussion,” Dr. Cárdenas said. “It’s a valuable tool to determine when a player is safe to go back on the field.”
Last year, Barrow, the AIA and the Arizona Cardinals debuted the Barrow Brainbook, the nation’s first mandated concussion education and test for high school athletes. So far more than 100,000 Arizona athletes have been through the program.
“To build on the success of Barrow Brainbook, the Barrow Concussion Network was formed to more effectively manage concussions once they occur,” according to Barrow’s press release.
“As high school football season begins this week, I am confident that for the first time, Arizona’s players will be starting their season more aware of the dangers of concussions,” AIA Executive Director Harold Slemmer said in a statement. “They’ve completed the concussion education and they now have many more resources available to help keep them healthy.”