Texas launching extensive study of brain injuries in young athletes

Texas this week is launching a massive study to examine brain injuries in young athletes and whether new initiatives are making a difference.

HeadInjuriesThe study is commissioned by the University Interscholastic League (UIL) and the O’Donnell Brain Institute at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Two dozen high school sports will be monitored so experts can determine whether equipment changes and new rules have improved player safety. State officials called the study the nation’s largest effort to track brain injuries in youth athletes.

“This is a groundbreaking initial step,” said Dr. Munro Cullum, professor with the O’Donnell Brain Institute at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “I think we’re on the verge of a very impactful project that will inform the nation about the frequency and some basic information about concussion and recovery in student-athletes.”

From the UIL:

The project is modeled after a smaller concussion study (ConTex1) that Dr. Cullum helped launch last year that tracks more detailed information about concussions in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. He also led a first-of-its-kind study published last year that found NFL players who lost consciousness due to concussion showed key differences in brain structure later in life. 

The statewide registry relies on athletic trainers and school personnel across Texas to report all concussions that occur in UIL athletics to a central database through an app or online site developed by Medical Innovation Labs in Austin. Among the information being tracked is the cause of the injury, concussion history, the gender of the player and other data. During this school year, UIL-member schools will participate on a voluntary basis, with plans to expand reporting next school year.

Dr. Cullum, the principal investigator of both ConTex studies, said his team will measure how often concussions occur in each sport, identify areas with low rates, and with more data eventually examine whether certain practices are helping to reduce concussions or shorten recovery times in those areas.

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