Barrow Neurological Institute Javier Cardenas Christian Kirk

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As more Arizona parents are more educated about concussions, more and more are deciding to say no to the sport that arguably creates the greatest risk of head injury, high school football.

In the most recent Barrow Neurological Institute survey, the number of parents allowing their children to play football increased from 68% in 2016 to 47% in 2020, according to Dr Javier Cardenas, director of the Barrow Concussion and Brain Injury Center at Barrow Neurological. Institute.

The Barrow Neurological Institute, located in north Phoenix, on Tuesday celebrated its 10th anniversary of the nation’s first mandatory concussion training for student-athletes.

Barrow, the Arizona Interscholastic Association, and the Arizona Cardinals collaborated to create the Barrow Brainbook, which has trained over a million high school athletes in multiple sports since its inception.

“Mental health, a disease of the brain, is the most important issue for our athletes today,” Cardenas said at a press conference on Wednesday. “Arizona has been and will continue to be the leader in concussion initiatives, nationally and internationally.

Part of the declining number of parents allowing their children to play football could be due to misconceptions about concussions, which gained more attention after reports of many former NFL players suffering from brain disorders linked to injuries. injuries later in life.

“The biggest misconception I hear about concussion is that it’s not treatable and you have to go to a dark room and rest and stay there forever. It’s not.” , Cardenas said. “In fact, there are many active treatments, mostly non-drug, that can help people recover, whether it’s vestibular therapy for balance, occupational therapy for vision … All of these treatments are treatment opportunities. “

Improving prevention measures is also essential, he said.

Penalties are now applied to head-to-head contact games, such as targeting and blind blocks, which cause the most concussions. In addition, football players wear equipment that better prevents head injuries.

“I think the only thing that [NFL players] we have technology on our side, ”said Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk, a Saguaro High School product, who attended Wednesday’s press conference. “The technology that we have in our helmets and all of our gear to help us stay safe, as well as to help eliminate some of those traumatic injuries that have been suffered in the past.”

However, the effects of this new technology are not only felt at the professional level.

“In fact, at the NFL level, almost every athlete wears the best performing helmet. Why does it matter? It matters because this technology is impacting our varsity athletes and, more importantly, our youth. athletes, ”Cardenas said.

While at Saguaro, Kirk was a member of the group that participated in the Barrow Neurological Institute’s first collaboration and the launch of the Barrow Brainbook program. Following the program enabled her to recognize the symptoms of a concussion.

If athletes suffer from a head injury, the Barrow Brainbook requires them to take a concussion education course and take a formal test to participate in Arizona high school sports. So far, over 300,000 high school athletes have completed these tests and over 600,000 have completed the Barrow Neurological Institute’s Telemedicine Concussion Program.

The Barrow Brainbook’s reach continues to grow after Cardenas said a Spanish version was just released.

“This Spanish Brainbook will allow us to better serve our Latino community in Arizona, as well as improve accessibility for all Spanish speaking student-athletes,” Cardenas said.


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