How high school concussion rates have changed in the past 10 years

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It’s been 10 years since the Barrow Neurological Institute issued its Barrow Brainbook, the nation’s first mandatory education for high school athletes on concussions. Since then, the Barrow Brainbook has provided concussion education to one million student-athletes. Dr. Javier Cardenas, a Barrow neurologist, discussed the Brainbook and how it’s impacted concussion rates on high school athletes.

Dr. Cardenas defines a concussion in its basic form as an injury to the brain. “A concussion is the mildest traumatic brain injury, which means if someone hits their head or has a force applied to their body; they have a change in neurological function,” Cardenas said. He added that the most obvious change in neurological function is getting “knocked out.” The most common is a gap in memory with symptoms of confusion, dizziness, blurry vision, which would indicate a change in brain function.

Dr. Cardenas mentioned that most people have a full recovery after suffering a concussion. “Today, there are more opportunities to have a complete recovery,” he said. Compounding concussions saw more of a risk for long-term injuries, according to Dr. Cardenas. Some long-term deficits include trouble with memory, thinking, headaches, trouble with balance and sleep. More severe actions can lead to dementia and more.

Barrow Neurological Institute’s main focus was empowering the athletes with concussion education. This is so athletes could identify their own symptoms, signs in fellow athletes, and take the correct procedures to make sure help is received. The majority of high schoolers who have completed Barrow’s concussion education training are from Arizona.

“Around this time 10-years-ago was indeed an increase in emergency room visits for concussions,” he said. Dr. Cardenas added that a big part of people taking concussions more seriously was the consistent education and awareness outreach. Since then, there has been a decline.

Javier Cardenas, M.D. Neurologist, Barrow Neurological Institute

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