The Back Story
Years ago, a car hit a young boy from Bend while he was riding his bike. He was not wearing a helmet. The boy arrived in the ER where one of The Center Foundation’s board members, a neurosurgeon, was on call. Tragically, the boy did not survive in spite of the surgeon’s best efforts. As a result, The Center Foundation developed their Brain Trust Program, which includes education, outreach, and concussion management protocols.
Train Your Brain
With the intention of preventing further tragedies like this one, The Center Foundation adopted programs to educate grade school kids on the importance of protecting their brain and spinal cord. The resulting program, called Train Your Brain, provides age-appropriate, research-based curriculum.
Today, The Center Foundation brings Train Your Brain presentations to third-grade classrooms across Central Oregon. The goal is to reach young people early enough to create a lifetime of safety habits. To achieve this, kids learn brain and spinal cord anatomy and injury prevention techniques. These active and fun sessions conclude with a melon-drop helmet demonstration.
Sessions focus on teaching the importance of helmet use, proper fitting, and overall safety. If children do not have a helmet, The Center Foundation gives them a new helmet free of charge.
Each year, Train Your Brain comes to over 2,000 students in area schools, and distributes more than 1,200 multi-sport helmets to those in need. If your child needs a multi-sport helmet, please call Stuart Schmidt at 541-322-2323.
Protecting student athletes from closed head injuries begins well before an athlete actually suffers a concussion. The Center Foundation uses the following best practices to manage concussions and reduce the incidence of Second Impact Syndrome:
- Athletes in high-risk sports take a pre-season baseline ImPACT test every two years. Comparing baseline results to post-injury results at the appropriate stage in recovery helps guide the rehabilitation process.
- Next, athletic trainers and physicians work with teachers, coaches, and athletic directors to identify the signs and symptoms of a concussion.
- In addition, The Center Foundation educates students and their parents on concussion awareness, signs and symptoms, and the importance of reporting their injury immediately.
- Most importantly, the moment a concussion is suspected, a young athlete is removed from play until assessed and cleared by a qualified health care professional.
The Center Foundation believes that it is important for young people to participate in an active lifestyle. In fact, studies have repeatedly shown a positive correlation between sports participation and academic outcomes. Moreover, young people who play sports are at decreased risk for drug and alcohol use. Unfortunately, it is also true that the speed, power, and momentum required for excelling in sports sometimes results in serious head injuries.
With this in mind, The Center Foundation partnered with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in 2000. The result was the first high school concussion baseline testing program west of the Mississippi. Today, Central Oregon high school athletes are part of a progressive program setting new standards for concussion diagnosis and treatment.
ImPACT is a computerized evaluation system. When used to capture the baseline state of a child’s normal mental function, it becomes a powerful tool in deciding when it is safe for an athlete to return to contact sports. Therefore, high school athletes competing in high risk sports are tested every two years between the ages of 12 and 18. This helps maintain a current baseline test for each student on file. In most cases, tests are conducted by the school’s athletic trainer at no cost to the student or their families.
In addition, The Center Foundation offers community baseline testing days several times per year. Any child between the ages of 12 and 18 that has not been tested at their school can participate. The cost is $15 per child and space for upcoming test dates can be reserved by calling 541-322-2323.
Brain Trust Program – Protecting the Young Brain
Unfortunately, concussions do occur in nearly all physical activities. Concussions are serious injuries that can affect a person in all areas of their lives, including physical, emotional, and mental. Once a concussion occurs, it is imperative to remove the young athlete from play until their brain heals. If this doesn’t happen, the child is at risk for a devastating secondary concussion. Second Impact Syndrome occurs when a person suffers a second concussion before they have fully healed from the first concussion. During this condition, the brain swells rapidly, and sometimes even fatally.
Thanks to Max’s Law in the state of Oregon, protocols require at least seven days off from sports following an initial concussion. While it might not be possible to prevent concussions from occurring in the first place, it is possible, and imperative, that secondary concussions are avoided at all costs.
Overall, the goal of the Brain Trust Program is to protect the brains and health of young people and reduce catastrophic brain injuries. Through education, management protocols, and increased symptom awareness, the foundation strives to achieve its mission to keep kids safe in sports.
Written by: Shawn Taylor, program administrator for The Center Foundation in Bend, OR. Learn more about Shawn HERE.
The Center Foundation places dedicated athletic trainers in local high schools to provide sports medicine services to young athletes at no charge to the students or their families. Learn more about our work HERE.
Bernstein, Lenny. “A growing body of evidence links exercise and mental acuity,” published May 25, 2010 at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/24/AR2010052402608.html . Access date: May 6, 2019.
“Exercise ‘boosts academic performance’ of teenagers,” published October 21, 2013 at http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-24608813 . Access date: May 2, 2019.
“The Association Between School-Based Physical Activity, Including Physical Education, and Academic Performance.” July 2010, available at http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/health_and_academics/pdf/pa-pe_paper.pdf. Access date: May 7, 2019.