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Barrow experts cite greater awareness as reason for rise in concussion reports

Concussion rates have doubled nationally in the last decade.

Barrow Neurological Institute concussion experts say they know why.

They point to increased awareness of the dangers of concussions, which leads to more reporting. And they say it will likely mean an uptick in concussions reported this season in high school football.

“One reason is that more people are reporting concussions. Increased awareness is critical to improving diagnosis and treatment for concussion victims,” said Dr. Javier 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 met with reporters at Barrow’s midtown Phoenix campus on Wednesday, providing an update on programs offered by Barrow, one of the nation’s leading centers for the treatment of brain injuries. The wide-ranging session covered a number of topics, ranging from pro football to prep sports.

The press conference confirmed that the media has a heavy appetite for concussion information and expertise – and it underscores why we’re fortunate to work with a client as respected as Barrow.

Barrow is at the forefront of concussion research as well as treatment and diagnosis.

Dr. Cárdenas said 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 re-launching Barrow Brainbook, the pioneering concussion education program that has been taken by more than 270,000 Arizona high school athletes.

And those student-athletes receive the same treatment as the pros.

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."

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.

The press conference included comments by Rudy Ayala, a Tempe High School junior who was suffered a concussion during drills before a JV game at Coconino High School in August 2014.

In the months that followed, Ayala experienced difficulty walking, talking and sleeping. He frequently lost his balance and struggled with his schoolwork.

Ayala has been rehabilitating for the past year under the guidance of Dr. Cárdenas. Ayala has worked on regaining his balance, controlling his headaches and mastering his schoolwork.

Ayala, who aspires to be a policeman, offered advice to fellow student-athletes: “I would tell them, don’t be afraid to tell your coach if you think you have had a concussion. Go see a trainer right away. Whatever you do, don’t try to hide it.”

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