Barrow Institute: concussions impact nearly 1 of 3 Arizona student athletes

Barrow Institute press conference on Aug. 26. (submitted photo)

Barrow Institute press conference on Aug. 26. (submitted photo)

Almost one-third of Arizona high school senior athletes report they have sustained a concussion, according to the first statewide concussion-related study of teenagers conducted for Barrow Neurological Institute.

With the kick-off of another football and soccer season, brain experts at Barrow released the study’s findings, saying its conclusions were both encouraging and troubling.

“While the number of teens who have suffered a concussion is disturbing, we are pleased that the survey also shows that Arizona youth are becoming informed about concussions and the dangers of not being treated,” said Dr. Javier Cárdenas, in a press release.

Dr. Cárdenas is a sports neurologist at Barrow’s Concussion and Brain Injury Center and a national leader in concussion research. Barrow is part of Dignity Health’s St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center.

The survey also revealed that concussions are having a direct impact on sports participation, with one in four boys deciding not to play football because of concussion concerns and one in 10 girls declining to play soccer for the same reason.  While the issue of concussion in football has been widely discussed, the high rate of brain injury in girls’ soccer is less well known, the release stated.

Dr. Cárdenas said he was encouraged by the report’s finding that 79 percent of student-athletes said they would tell their coach if they thought they had suffered a concussion.

The web poll of teens in June 2016 is the latest in a series of Barrow surveys aimed at gauging public understanding of concussion.

Previous surveys polled parents and other adults. This survey was conducted to determine concussion awareness among Arizona teens and to understand behavior based on personal experience or potential future experience. It sampled those who play sports and those who do not and broke down responses by age and gender.

“With each survey, we’re seeing more sophisticated opinions,” said Dr. Cárdenas in the release.  “Keeping a pulse on the public’s view of concussion is incredibly important in Arizona, where we have taken a national lead in creating a safe environment for all students.”

Dr. Cárdenas credited the increased concussion awareness among teens to Barrow Brainbook, the pioneering concussion education program launched by Barrow in August 2011. All Arizona high school student-athletes are required to take it before participating in sports.

Recently announced, Arizona State University athletes will also be required to complete the Barrow Brainbook module before play.  ASU is the first NCAA-affiliated university to introduce the education to its student athletes.

Still, even with the education, about a quarter of student-athletes polled say they did not receive information about the signs and symptoms of concussion.

“One hundred percent awareness and education is the goal,” Dr. Cárdenas said in the release.

As teen athletes learn more about concussions, they appear less likely to try to play through them. Asked what they would do if they suffered a concussion, 79 percent said they would immediately tell their coach, while 30 percent would tell their parents.

Only 13 percent said they would wait for a stop in game action and four percent said they would not tell anyone.

“What’s really encouraging is that they’re reporting concussions to their coach,” said Dr. Cárdenas in the release.

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