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Barrow Concussion Experts Predict More Reporting of Head Injuries During Upcoming Football Season


Barrow Neurological Institute concussion experts say increased awareness of the dangers of concussions will likely mean an uptick in concussions reported this season in all levels of high school football.

Dr. Javier Cárdenas said Wednesday that concussion rates have doubled in the last decade nationally.  “One reason is that more people are reporting concussions. Increased awareness is critical to improving diagnosis and treatment for concussion victims,” said Dr. Cárdenas, medical director of the Barrow Concussion and Brain Injury Center at Barrow Neurological Institute. “Concussion diagnosis is a two-way street. Doctors do our best to assess neurological function, but it is the responsibility of the athlete to report their symptoms. I firmly believe professional athletes have a responsibility to set positive examples when it comes to reporting concussion symptoms.”

Dr. Cárdenas said that while no clear statistics are available about the number of concussions in high school football in Arizona, he was hopeful that a new Barrow research project would help provide a benchmark on the prevalence of concussions in all Arizona high school sports and that the data could be used to better educate and treat young athletes. Barrow continues to offer free baseline concussion testing for all student-athletes from AIA-member schools. Barrow is also launching a new version of Barrow Brainbook, the pioneering concussion education program that has been taken by more than 270,000 Arizona high school athletes.

Arizona has been in the forefront of concussion treatment and diagnosis in the United States and is striving to remain in a leadership role through programs that serve professional, college and high school athletes. Barrow, which is part of Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, is a national leader in the treatment of brain and spine injuries.

Dr. Cárdenas, along with Barrow’s Dr. Taro Kaibara and Dr. Randall Porter, will work as sideline Unaffiliated Neurotrama Consultants for the NFL. Dr. Cárdenas said that a new NFL rule allowing a press box spotter to call timeout when a head injury is suspected is a watershed moment in football. The rule also allows a sideline neurotrama consultant to report possible concussions to the spotter, who can have the player in question removed from the game.

“In my opinion, this is the biggest thing that has happened in sports medicine in many years,” Dr. Cárdenas said. “Where else do you have a medical provider who is calling a timeout in any other sport? None. It’s huge for sports medicine."

On the college level, Barrow is entering the third season of a pioneering genetic research study with Arizona State University, Riddell and the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen). The Sun Devil football program is again participating in a genetic research study to advance student-athlete concussion detection and treatment. In addition, Barrow staff will once again serve as sideline concussion observers at ASU home games.

With the fall high school sports seasons starting, Dr. Cárdenas reminded high school student-athletes, parents and coaches to participate in concussion testing by the Barrow Concussion Network – it’s free to all AIA member schools. To date, the program has baseline tested more than 58,000 student-athletes and performed more than 8,500 post-injury tests.

“It’s a great way to help athletes stay on top of their game,” Dr. Cárdenas said. - Barrow

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