State Requires Brain Tests For Student Athletes

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Early this week, the Arizona Interscholastic Association, the Arizona Cardinals and Barrow Neurological Institute introduced Brainbook, an online video intended to educate prep athletes about the danger of concussions.

AIA executive director Harold Slemmer has said athletes will be required to watch the video and correctly answer 80 percent of the test questions to be eligible to participate in sports.

With the move, Arizona is now first in the U.S. to mandate all male and female athletes undergo concussion education and pass a formal test before playing.

PHS school football coach Byron Quinlan, and others around small-town Arizona including some athletic directors, said this week they had not yet seen Brainbook and know little of the program requirements.

However, if the date being touted for passing the test, Oct. 1, is indeed accurate (it could not be verified by press time), that gives Arizona coaches limited time to have their players watch the video and take the exam.

Creators of Brainbook say it is designed to look like a social media site and student-athletes are taken through a series of educational content, activities and video. The test follows.

Prior to the AIA announcing the formation of Brainbook, Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale made concussion testing available to more than 100,000 athletes around the state.

Which means there are now two sources teaching the dangers of concussions — Brainbook and Mayo Clinc’s baseline concussion online cognitive test than can be taken on any computer with Web access.

The Mayo testing measures how the brain is working when it is normal.

The advantage of having a baseline assessment is that it helps doctors understand when there has been a change in brain activity, which indicates a concussion.

The test also helps determine when an athlete’s brain has returned to normal and he or she can resume play.

Those who have taken the test say it is relatively simple one that includes a section that shows a series of playing cards to the student athlete and then asks questions such as, “Have you seen this card before?”

Studies show that when athletes continue to play after a concussion or return to action too soon, there are significant risks of suffering another concussion. Also, repeat concussions take longer to heal and there is a risk of permanent neurological damage.

An example of an athlete who suffered multiple concussions that forced him to give up football is former Arizona State University quarterback Steven Threet.

Tomorrow (Saturday) at Arizona State University’s Memorial Union, Mayo Clinic and ASU are sponsoring an Arizona Concussion Summit that will feature several speakers including Threet.

During his collegiate career, Threet suffered four concussions — two of them occurring during the 2010 season. The first occurred Oct. 23 at California and the second Nov. 26 against UCLA.

In February, Threet announced he was giving up on the sport that many thought would eventually earn him a lucrative pro contract.

The Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy (CSTE) at the Boston University School of Medicine recently began studying concussions using tissue from former NFL players who have died.

In the past, concussions had been considered “invisible injuries” because they were almost impossible to test.

But the results from the CSTE made known for first time the tremendous brain damage done by concussions.

Recently, CSTE research released the results of posthumous tests done on athletes who had suffered concussions during their career, including former NFL player Tom McHale who died in 2008 at the age of just 45.

Results of the tests show that the damage done is extensive and not limited to superficial aspects of the brain but deep inside.

The Mayo Clinic’s offer to do the testing and the AIA’s mandate to pass the Brainbook exam, comes on the heels of the passage of Arizona Senate Bill 1521 that requires players who have sustained a head injury remain sidelined until given the OK to play by a licensed health care provider.

For more information, go to http://www.mayoclinic.org/ concussion-testing.

Quinlan said he would have more information about Brainbook requirements next week.

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