Barrow Concussion Survey: More Arizona Parents, Teens Leaving Football

Concussion Concerns Also Impact Girls’ Sports Fearing concussions and their possible long-term health impacts, a growing number of Arizona parents and teens are walking away from football, according to a new survey by Phoenix’s Barrow Neurological Institute. Meanwhile, girls report that they are sustaining sport-related concussions at nearly the...

Concussion Concerns Also Impact Girls’ Sports

Fearing concussions and their possible long-term health impacts, a growing number of Arizona parents and teens are walking away from football, according to a new survey by Phoenix’s Barrow Neurological Institute.

Meanwhile, girls report that they are sustaining sport-related concussions at nearly the same rate as boys, the poll shows.

Each of the last three years, Barrow has measured the public’s awareness of concussion and how it impacts participation in high school athletics. This is the first time that both teens and parents were surveyed simultaneously.

Greater awareness of sport-related concussion has led to widespread concern over the long-term effects of brain injuries. Nearly eight in 10 teens who have had a concussion admit to being afraid of the long-term impact of multiple concussions, a 33 percent increase from 2016.

“These numbers show that parents and student-athletes are better informed but more fearful of sport-related concussion and its possible long-term health effects,” says Dr. Javier Cárdenas, director of the Barrow Concussion and Brain Injury Center at Barrow Neurological Institute, which is part of Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center. “Our challenge is to continue to educate the public while making youth sports as safe as possible.”

Football

Football still has by far the most participants among high school sports, nationally and in Arizona, and it has adopted rule changes aimed at making the game less dangerous. But fewer parents are willing to allow their children to play the sport – and more boys are choosing not to participate.

Photo of phoenx concussion doctor javier cardenas

The percentage of Arizona parents who allow their children to play football has plummeted 15 percent, to 59 percent. At the same time, one in four Arizona boys say they won’t play football because of concussion fears.

Wyatt Ellis understands teens’ hesitation to play football as well as their concerns about the long-term effects of concussion. Ellis sustained a concussion in one of his final games as a defensive lineman at Chandler’s Basha High School. The injury forced him to quit the sport and give up a football scholarship to Arizona State University, although he will soon graduate from ASU with a degree in Criminal Justice.

“I got stripped from a lot of my life because of that one play,” says Ellis, a patient of Dr. Cárdenas’. “I had terrible migraines for three years, and I still suffer from headaches and occasional blurred vision. Teens are smart to be wary of concussions.”

The survey’s numbers track with declining football participation nationally and in Arizona, with the number of boys playing 11-player football in both places dropping by 2 percent from 2015 to 2016, the most recent year reported, according to National Federation of State High School Associations statistics.

Girls’ Sports

Nearly as many girls (1 in 6) as boys (1 in 5) report sustaining a concussion while playing sports. Perhaps as a result, 1 in 5 girls say they won’t participate in any sport – including soccer, softball, and cheerleading – because of concussion concerns.

These fears may be well-grounded, particularly in soccer. A 2017 study led by a Northwestern University researcher found that concussions account for a greater percentage of overall injuries in girls’ soccer than they do in football and that the rate of concussion is nearly that of football.

Despite the concerns, Arizona girls’ high school sports participation rose slightly in 2016-17, NFHS statistics show.

Education

Widespread efforts to educate the public have resulted in greater overall awareness of concussion dangers. But the message isn’t always getting through to teen athletes; a quarter of teens who play sports say that they had not received concussion education. The Arizona Interscholastic Association requires all student-athletes to complete the Barrow Brainbook education program before play.

Another contradiction: 9 in 10 teens agree that concussions are “serious medical conditions,” but a quarter say that they would play through a concussion if the state championship were on the line.

Wyatt Ellis shows the helmet he was wearing when he sustained a career-ending brain injury during a high school football game.

Wyatt Ellis shows the helmet he was wearing when he sustained a career-ending brain injury during a high school football game.

“That concerns me, because reporting concussions is not situational,” says Cárdenas, who created Barrow Brainbook. “It’s clear that while education efforts have created much greater awareness among teens, the medical and education communities still have work to do. AIA schools require concussion education, but club sports do not. The number of student-athletes who receive concussion education needs to be 100 percent.”

Parents clearly agree: only 3 in 10 parents believe that schools and sports teams have done enough to prevent concussions.

Barrow Brainbook recently surpassed 400,000 users, and more than 200,000 ImPACT baseline concussion tests have been administered to Arizona teen athletes, Cárdenas says. Barrow Brainbook was launched in 2011 as the most comprehensive concussion education effort in Arizona. Brainbook is a web-based learning tool developed specifically for high school student-athletes that provides information on how to prevent, recognize and respond to concussions.

The Barrow concussion study of teens was conducted by West Group Research in June 2018 with a sample of 310 males and females, ages 14 to 18, living in Arizona. Of these, 187 reported playing school and/or club sports. The margin of error is plus or minus 5.6 percent at 95 percent confidence for the full sample (310), and plus or minus 7.2 percent among high school athletes (187).

The parents study was conducted in June 2018 by West Group Research with a sample of 570 Arizona adults selected randomly. Of these, 178 were parents of a child or children under the age of 18. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.1 percent for the full sample and plus or minus 7.3 percent among parents of teens.

2018 Barrow Concussion Survey: By the Numbers

  • Arizona parents and teens are walking away from football in increasing numbers.
    • From January 2016 to June 2018, 15 percent fewer Arizona parents said they would allow their children to play football.
      • 2016: 67.8 percent
      • 2018: 59 percent
    • 1 in 4 boys say they won’t play football because of concussion danger.
  • 1 in 5 Arizona high school athletes report sustaining a sport-related concussion.
  • 78 percent of teens who have had a concussion fear long-term implications of concussions, a huge jump from 2017 (58 percent).
  • A quarter of teens who play sports say they have not received concussion education.
  • A quarter of teens say they have decided not to play an organized sport because of concussion concerns.
  • Only 3 in 10 parents say that schools and sports teams have done enough to prevent concussions.
  • 4 out of 5 teens say they would tell their coach if they thought they had sustained a concussion. But only 1 in 5 would tell their parents – a big drop from 1 in 3 in 2017.
  • Nearly 7 in 10 teens who suffered concussions missed class time as a result. (4 in 10 say they missed 3-10 days).
  • While 90 percent of teens agree that concussions are a “serious medical condition,” a quarter say they would play through a concussion if the State Championship were on the line.
  • Girls suffer sport-related concussions at nearly the same rate as boys.
    • Boys – 19.5 percent report having suffered a concussion while playing sports
    • Girls – 17.1 percent report having suffered a concussion while playing sports
  • 1 in 5 girls say they have decided not to play a sport because of concussion concerns.
  • Girls appear to take warnings about concussions more seriously than boys; three-quarters of girls disagreed with the statement “Concerns over concussions in school sports are being exaggerated/blown out of proportion,” compared to only about half of boys.
  • 3 out of 4 students agree with the statement “Most coaches take the risk of concussion seriously.”

Arizona Concussion Score Card

Education

  • Barrow Brainbook has provided concussion education to more than 400,000 Arizona high school athletes since 2011.
  • Barrow Brainball, concussion education for youth, has been downloaded more than 15,000 times.

Policy

  • Arizona Interscholastic Association’s (AIA) football helmet dislodgement rule of 2011 was adopted by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFSH) in 2012.
  • AIA’s football contact practice rule of 2013 was adopted by NFHS in 2015.
  • Arizona was the first state in the nation to limit soccer heading practice.
  • AIA’s blindside block rule of 2016 was adopted by NFHS in 2017.
  • Arizona was the second state in the nation to offer a concussion health insurance policy to all AIA athletes.

Barrow Resources

  • More than 200,000 baseline concussion tests have been delivered by Barrow to Arizona high school athletes.
  • Approximately 30,000 post-injury concussion tests have been delivered by Barrow to Arizona high school athletes.
  • More than 400 telemedicine concussion consultations have been provided by Barrow to Arizona Athletic Trainers.

2018 Barrow Concussion Press Conference

Source: www.barrowneuro.org