According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 3.8 million sports- and recreation-related concussions occur in the United States each year. Of that estimate, emergency rooms treat approximately 135,000 sports- and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), including concussions, among children ages 5 to 18.
In recognition of March as Brain Injury Awareness Month, several post-acute rehabilitation programs around The Network are highlighting the importance of diagnosing and treating youth sports-related injuries and proudly support the BIAA’s nationwide education and advocacy campaign: “A concussion is a brain injury. Get the facts.”
In Virginia, Dr. Jeffrey T. Barth, a renowned expert in the field of brain injury who currently serves as Senior Scientist to Virginia Neurocare and Network partner Lakeview Healthcare Systems, is working together with other brain injury professionals from around the country to provide education for concussion prevention, treatment and recovery. As a part of this educational program, Dr. Barth, who is also one of the Founders of the University of Virginia Brain Injury and Sports Concussion Institute, will visit a dozen high schools in the Charlottesville area and present on the importance of identification and management of concussions for young athletes. During these talks, Dr. Barth hopes to reach students as well as teachers, parents, coaches and the larger community and help them understand the symptoms of a concussion and the steps to take in injury management and recovery. In addition, Dr. Barth will be working closely with athletic directors and coaches to implement some baseline assessment programs he developed for football programs at UVA to help evaluate the severity of a concussion or other mild head injury based on the results of cognitive test results from athletes prior to play or an injury.
“A concussion is one of the most common sports-related brain injuries, especially for children and adolescents,” says Dr. Barth, Ph.D., ABPP. “Unfortunately, because the symptoms of a concussion may not appear immediately after the injury it can often go untreated. In some cases this can lead to more serious, long term effects and if an athlete returns to play prior to fully recovering they’re at a higher risk for experiencing multiple concussions, which can lead to more severe and potentially catastrophic injuries.”
NeuroRestorative, another partner which recently joined The Network, also provides programs for children and adolescents with acquired brain injury and operates TimberRidge Ranch, the nation’s largest residential pediatric brain injury facility in the country. TimberRidge Ranch, located just outside of Little Rock, Arkansas, is a 315-acre rural site that provides youth of all ages with comprehensive treatment in a safe, peaceful environment combined with an array of therapeutic and educational activities.
“This year’s brain injury awareness month and national advocacy campaign on youth sports and concussions is especially important to the children and families we serve at TimberRidge,” says Roger Carrillo, Vice President of National Development for NeuroRestorative. “At the ranch we’ve helped many children who have experienced a brain injury while participating in sports or other recreational activities. We also partner with families and public education departments to put a focus recognizing concussions in sports and the importance of early treatment.”
The Network also offers other specialized youth programs at the Center for Comprehensive Services’ flagship location in Carbondale, Illinois and at Lakeview Healthcare Systems Sebago Place program in Maine.
“Our programs for children and adolescents recognize that young people who have sustained a brain injury may experience unique physical, emotional, behavioral, cognitive and social challenges,” says Robin Ray, Executive Vice President of MENTOR ABI's central region. “We build services around the strengths of each individual and work to successfully reintegrate youth into home, school and their community.”
“Educating youth athletes and their families as well as school systems and other recreational programs about the importance of treating sports concussions directly after they occur is critical to preventing more serious complications,” adds Dr. Barth. “Parents, teachers and coaches need to be trained in prevention techniques as well as the signs and symptoms of concussions to assure appropriate management and return to play decision-making.”
The MENTOR Network’s Post Acute Specialty Rehabilitation Services provide a growing array of programs and service locations for children and adults with brain and spinal cord injuries as well as other neurological challenges. Through continued program growth and a number of recent acquisitions, The Network has significantly expanded our continuum of care – offering a unique blend of community-based rehabilitation programs in seventeen states.
For more information or to find out how you can support the national advocacy campaign and ways to mark brain injury awareness month, visit www.biaa.org.