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UW Medicine to Open First-Of-Its-Kind Sports Health and Safety Institute with Major Foundational Gift from National Football League
University of Washiongton (UW) Medicine announced yesterday the launch of the Sports Health and Safety Institute to advance research, education and advocacy for the prevention and treatment of sports-related concussions. In addition, this Institute will focus on studying the overwhelming health benefits of sports and how to best make these activities safer and thus healthier. The establishment of the first-of-its-kind institute is made possible by a foundational donation of $2.5 million by the National Football League (NFL).
The conceptualization for the UW Medicine Sports Health and Safety Institute is largely inspired by the personal story of Zackery Lystedt. In 2006, Lystedt, then 13, was returned to play after suffering a head injury in a football game. He was later taken off the field with major head trauma and treated at UW Medicine’s Harborview Medical Center. Advocacy led to the creation of the Zackery Lystedt Law, first passed in Washington and subsequently adopted by all 50 states, which regulates athletes’ return to play after a suspected concussion.
The Institute will be led by Richard G. Ellenbogen, MD, chair of UW Medicine’s Department of Neurological Surgery, and Stanley A. Herring, MD, medical director of Spine, Sports and Orthopedic Health. It will focus first on the issue of concussion by:
- Advocating for sound policies that advance sports safety;
- Educating physicians, educators, coaches, parents, athletes and patients about concussion and about the benefits of active youth and how to make sports safer;
- Researching methods to promote behavioral and cultural change, to assess public health education, and to study the efficacy of sports concussion policies and laws; and
- Developing strategies to inform and engage the public and the media regarding sports- and recreation-related injuries.
“Though research is underway on the topic across the country, there are many questions that remain unanswered regarding concussions and traumatic brain injury,” Herring said. “The Institute will help tremendously in forging the path and uncovering ways to better engage and educate all interested parties about concussions and discover the best methods to effectively translate learning into behavior change. The NFL’s donation will help make this possible.”
“Our hope is that the research and findings uncovered by the Institute will be used to help shape the rules, regulations and best practices as it relates to safety across all sports,” Ellenbogen said. “It is far too often that athletes have a ‘no pain, no gain’ mentality, so it is our responsibility to ensure the medical staff on the sidelines have the knowledge and resources in place to ensure that no potentially injured athlete returns to the field prematurely.”
Ellenbogen and Herring co-direct the UW Medicine Sports Concussion Program at Harborview Medical Center and Seattle Children’s Hospital, dedicated to the safety of youth athletes. In addition, Ellenbogen co-chairs the NFL’s Head, Neck and Spine Committee. Herring, a team physician for the Seattle Seahawks and the Seattle Mariners, also is on the committee.
Keeping athletes, especially young ones, healthy and safe is a high priority at UW Medicine — and it is a challenge. Every year, 35 million children in the United States participate in recreational sports. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 3.8 million sports- and recreation-related concussions occur every year in the United States, with 173,000 children seen in emergency departments annually for this potentially serious injury.
“Concussion and TBI are complex issues we are deeply concerned about and committed to preventing,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “Providing the foundational donation for the UW Medicine Sports Health and Safety Institute is one step of many that the NFL is taking to address this important topic and is an extension of our work to improve safety for athletes across all age groups. We are confident that UW Medicine will help to make this progress possible.”
Although the UW Medicine Sports Health and Safety Institute will first address concussion, it may come to address other subjects crucial to athletes’ health, such as sudden cardiac arrest. The Institute’s path will depend, in part, on reaching an ambitious $10.5 million fundraising goal.
The Institute will be part of UW Medicine’s pioneering research and patient care. “UW Medicine has already made strides regarding the pathology of concussion and has exceptional strengths in trauma care, orthopedics and rehabilitation — three areas crucial to keeping athletes safe and well,” said Paul G. Ramsey, MD, CEO of UW Medicine. “We’re very pleased to partner with the NFL to make sure we get to the next level in terms of education and advocacy.”
University Hospitals has developed a system-wide program for enhanding care of concussions in Northeast Ohio involving specialists from the Neurological Institute and Sports Medicine program working together with primary care physicians.
“We want to provide physicians and patients with the gold standard of care and management,” Susannah Briskin, MD, Co-Director of the UH Concussion Management Program, a pediatric sports medicine physician with UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.
“Much of the outreach for hospitals for concussion care has occurred through athletic trainers providing care to high school sports teams,” said Christopher Bailey, PhD, Director of the UH Concussion Management Program and Assistant Professor of Neurology at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine. “Our Sports Medicine program has built excellent relationships with many schools, and will continue to grow in the area. With our current initiative, we want to cover non-athletic injuries and adults with concussions. We want to improve access for adult care,” said Dr. Bailey.
According to him, standards of care for concussion are continually advancing. International written guidelines change every couple of years and it becomes difficult for even specialists as him to remain current on new knowledge. The Concussion Management Program, with UH’s new Primary Care Institute, has developed an educational training program for NE Ohio primary care physicians who receive a certification from UH on the management of concussions.
“Knowledge and change are coming fast in this field, so it is essential for primary care physicians to know what the current standards of care are because many of them may provide initial management and evaluation of concussions,” said Dr. Bailey. “Patients may funnel to a primary care physician from a local emergency department or urgent care, athletic trainers, or a direct call from a patient.”
Drs. Bailey and Briskin, Alan Hoffer, MD, neurosurgeon and Assistant Professor at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, and Christopher Tangen, DO, family medicine physician, offered in May medical education to 28 primary care physicians who practice throughout Northeast Ohio. The sessions included symptom evaluation, recovery steps, and recognizing signs for further referral to specialists, among other things.
Additionally in June, 36 physical therapists representing every UH medical center, completed the nation’s first ImPACT™ testing physical therapist course. UH has the first group of PTs to receive this certification.
Todd Zeiger, MD, Vice President, UH Primary Care Institute, said, “Primary care physicians not involved in sports medicine typically have not received training in concussion care. There also have been many advances in the diagnosis and treatment of concussions, but if you weren’t based in sports medicine, you might not have been exposed to that knowledge. We felt it imperative for our non-sports physicians to be educated in the diagnosis and treatment protocol for concussions.”
According to Dr. Briskin, handling concussions could involve multiple disciplines, including neurology, psychology, psychiatry, physical therapy, and other specialties, depending on the nature of the case. “UH Case Medical Center and UH Rainbow have become aligned with many regional hospitals that have excellent physicians and rehabilitation programs that are available to patients within our system and close to their homes, providing patients with more options for recovery care,” she said.
“In addition, with the planning of a Level I trauma center at UH Case Medical Center next year, we expect to see more head injured patients entering the UH system and we want to be prepared with a uniform, high level of care throughout the UH system,” she said.
As part of this new initiative, UH has established the phone number 216-983-PLAY (7529) and 216-983-HEAD (4323) for further information and referrals. UH is a certified ImPACT™ concussion testing provider offering testing for athletes, schools and other sports organizations.
Local medical professionals in Grand Valley, Colorado are joining forces to combat “an epidemic of concussions,” according to a local television station.
Leading the charge, according to a recent story, is Community Hospital, which is funding and developing a special Concussion Task Force
Job one is to “understand how we are managing concussions currently in the valley,” said Dr. Dan Mistry, a primary care physician.
Chris Thomas, the CEO of Community Hospital, said his company is expanding to better “go after this problem. (A)nd our partnership with Dr. Mistry and the other physicians that are involved is going to be a great partnership going forward.”
Dr. Mistry added that “the goal (of the Task Force) is to develop a uniform protocol for diagnosis testing and management of concussions in the Grand Valley.”
Plans have already been made to host an “Impact Seminar” on July 12th and a 2nd Sports Medicine Conference on July 19th.