The nation’s largest concussion study among high school student-athletes is under way thanks to a partnership between the Texas University Interscholastic League (UIL) and UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute.
Data gained from the study will contribute to concussion research and is intended to assist UIL officials in gauging whether rules or equipment changes have reduced concussion risks in athletics.
“The health and safety of our student participants is at the forefront of everything we do,” said Charles Breithaupt, UIL executive director. “The UIL Medical Advisory Committee has been focused on concussions since its inception 15 years ago, and this concussion registry will provide valuable information and help us continue to improve the safety of extracurricular athletics.”
The UIL becomes one of the first state associations to track brain injuries at its member schools with the launch of the ConTex registry. Included in the registry are concussion cases reported by athletic
trainers and other UIL-sanctioned athletic activity personnel at the middle school and high school levels.
The program will eventually track more than 1,400 UIL member schools and 800,000 student-athletes in about two dozen sports that range from football to girls soccer. Currently, only one school from each district is required to report concussions as part of a weekly injury reporting system, though each school in the football playoffs is required to report concussions.
“Right now, it’s a sample that is just a snapshot. It’s not scientific,” said Jamey Harrison, UIL deputy director. “We need to move beyond that.”
The partnership between the UIL and UT Southwestern is modeled after a smaller ConTex1 study conducted last year by Dr. Munro Cullum, Professor of Psychiatry, Neurology and Neurotherapeutics and Neurological Surgery with the O’Donnell Brain Institute. That study tracked more in-depth concussion information in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Dr. Cullum’s team is expected to measure how often concussions occur in each UIL sport, identify areas with low rates, and eventually gather enough data to examine whether certain practices can decrease concussions or shorten recovery times.
“This is a groundbreaking initial step,” Dr. Callum said. “I think we’re on the verge of a very impactful project that will inform the nation about the frequency and some basic information about concussion
and recovery in student-athletes.”