UT Southwestern and UIL Launch Concussion Tracking Program
AUSTIN – December 12, 2016 – The nation’s largest statewide effort to track concussions among high school student-athletes will begin with the launch of a registry in Texas designed to track brain injuries in high school sports. UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute, in conjunction with the University Interscholastic League, will begin an effort to monitor concussions across the state among UIL-member school student-athletes.
The data will contribute to concussion research and is expected to provide a gauge for whether certain rules or equipment changes are improving player safety in UIL athletics.
“This is a groundbreaking initial step. 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,” said Dr. Munro Cullum, Professor of Psychiatry, Neurology and Neurotherapeutics and Neurological Surgery with the O’Donnell Brain Institute at UT Southwestern Medical Center.
The UIL has partnered with the O’Donnell Brain Institute to implement the ConTex registry to be used by UIL-member schools. The record will include concussion cases reported by middle and high school athletic trainers and other school personnel in all UIL-sanctioned athletic activities. The UIL has more than 1,400 member schools and 800,000 student-athletes and is the first association of its kind to launch a registry of this magnitude.
“The health and safety of our student participants are at the forefront of everything we do,” said Charles Breithaupt, UIL Executive Director. “The UIL Medical Advisory Committee focused on concussions since its inception 15 years ago and this concussion registry will provide valuable information and help us continue to improve the safety of extracurricular athletics.”
The UIL Medical Advisory recommended the UIL Legislative Council implement an injury data collection program as a tool to improve player safety and continue monitoring concussions in UIL athletic activities.
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 fundamental 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.
The statewide registry is funded by UT Southwestern’s Texas Institute for Brain Injury and Repair. The $7.5 million in annual funding from the Texas Legislature established TIBIR to explore the full spectrum of brain injuries from strokes to spinal cord injuries.