The more we know about concussions, the more concern grows each day about their impact on young athletes. Now it appears that Texas, arguably the state that we all most identify with high school football, will be at the forefront of the research.
This week, Texas will launch what state officials are saying is the nation’s largest effort to track brain injuries among young athletes.
The University Interscholastic League (UIL), Texas’ high school sports governing body, is partnering with the O’Donnell Brain Institute at UT Southwestern Medical Center for the project. From it, they hope to gauge whether rules or equipment changes are actually improving player safety and what more can be done to protect athletes.
With more than 800,000 public high school athletes in Texas, this research would be a key step in developing a national database of youth brain injuries, officials told the Associated Press. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is already seeking federal funding for such a database.
“Until we understand what the frequency of concussions is across the state, or a region of the state, we can’t determine when rule changes, equipment changes or things like recovery programs are really being effective,” Dr. Munro Cullum, a professor of psychiatry, neurology and neurotherapeutics who will lead the study, told the AP.
In recent years, all 50 states have passed some form of rules or laws to address concussions in youth athletics. The CDC estimates that up to 3.8 million concussions occur in sports and recreational activities each year, but some experts wonder if those numbers underestimate total brain injuries.
The Texas program will track roughly two dozen sports, from football to girls’ soccer. Per CBSDFW.com, athletic trainers and school nurses will report the concussion through a password-protected online site.
A recent concussion study in Michigan showed 755 schools reported 4,452 head injuries in the 2015-16 school year. Football had the most — 1,907 — and girls’ basketball was second with 454.
The Dallas Morning News has more on the study here.