As local students return to school and start fall sports, Dignity Health’s Barrow Neurological Institute and the Dignity Health Foundation are expanding the Dignity Health Concussion Network, “a first of its kind student athlete-focused approach to concussion education and prevention.” The program first debuted in California in January with support from the San Francisco 49ers, the California Interscholastic Federation, and ImPACT, the maker of a widely-used computerized concussion management tool.
More than 1,400 student athletes from five pilot schools – George Washington High School in San Francisco, Overfelt High School in San Jose, Berkeley High School, Carlmont High School in Belmont, and Milpitas High School – will be participating in four defined modules from the Dignity Health Concussion Network. These modules include comprehensive concussion education, an assessment, and pre-and-post ImPACT concussion testing.
“Sometimes student athletes return to play too soon after a head injury,” said Jed York, CEO of the San Francisco 49ers. “We are proud to help bring this important program to our area so that young athletes, their families and their coaches are better educated on the importance of managing such injuries with the appropriate level of care. Through proper preventative measures and injury treatment our youth can enjoy healthy careers in sports for as long as they desire.”
More than 20 other Bay Area high schools will also begin to utilize the Barrow Brainbook, the web and app-based educational component of the Dignity Health Concussion Network. Barrow Brainbook was created by neurologists at the Dignity Health Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, a renowned neurological establishment that performs more brain surgeries annually than anywhere in the United States. The interactive tool, which is designed to feel like a social media site, takes high school athletes through a series of engaging educational activities and videos about concussions. The program will continue to expand to 200,000 Bay Area students by mid-2017.
“This program is necessary to help correct major misunderstandings that most of the population has about concussions,” said Dr. Jávier Cardenas, director of the Barrow Concussion and Brain Injury Center in Phoenix. “For example, many people believe that a head injury is only a concussion if there is a loss of consciousness, but 90 percent of concussions do not present with that symptom at all. This program empowers athletic directors and coaches to take an injured player out of the game and gives athletes the tools to speak up when something doesn’t feel quite right.”
In addition to the Barrow Brainbook education module, the full program piloted by the five Bay Area high schools will incorporate a formal exam, which students will need to pass before beginning a sport, as well as ImPACT cognitive testing. The first round of ImPACT testing occurs in advance of the sports season to understand an athlete’s baseline cognitive abilities. Should that athlete suffer from head trauma, athletic trainers, directors, and coaches certified by the Dignity Health Concussion Network will repeat the test and compare it to the baseline scores to better understand the severity of the injury. Should they have any immediate questions, these trainers will also have access to world-renowned neurologists via a telemedicine tool.
The Barrow Brainbook was first introduced in Arizona in 2011, making it the first mandatory education module for all high school athletes in the country.