Concussion and Brain Injury

Leading Concussion Research Facility for Athletes and Domestic Violence Survivors

Programs that Save Lives

Concussions among professional athletes, especially NFL players, continuously make headlines. Studies on professional athletes found even slight blows to the head, when repeated often enough, can result in long-term neurodegenerative disease. But these injuries are not limited to only athletes playing at the top level of their sport. Recent studies indicate that between 2.5 and 3.8 million teens in the United States suffer concussions every year during school sports or other physical activities.

Concussions do not occur only on the playing field; they also occur out of sight in many homes across the country. Research has found that victims of domestic violence suffer concussions and other traumatic brain injuries at alarming rates. About 1.3 million women are assaulted by an intimate partner every year, and the brain injuries they suffer can impact their health via cognitive deficits, headache, dizziness, vision changes, and difficulty remembering things.

The Concussion & Brain Injury Center at Barrow Neurological Institute is dedicated to treating and providing education to help prevent these debilitating injuries, as well as conducting research that leads to improved therapies.

See what we achieved in research and patient care last year by downloading the FY22 Concussion and Brain Injury Stewardship Report below.

FY22 Concussion and Brain Injury Stewardship Report
FY22 Concussion and Brain Injury Stewardship Report
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0 of domestic violence victims were hit in the head more than once
0 were hit in the head and severely shaken
0 said they had been struck in the head too many times to count

Concussion research provides comprehensive care for all brain injury survivors

Prominent athletes visit Barrow to be treated by Javier Cárdenas, MD, director of the Barrow Concussion & Brain Injury Center, and his colleagues. So do teens and adults from all walks of life – the Center had a total nearly 2,500 outpatient clinic visits in the past year. When they walk into the lobby, trophies, balls, and signed jerseys are on display. A panoramic aerial photo of Super Bowl XLIX reminds patients they are about to receive the same level of expert care as professional athletes. They know the nation’s most comprehensive concussion and brain injury program is built on research that leads the field.

Barrow is one of only two non-federal institutions in the United States that provides concussion and brain injury treatment for domestic violence victims. It is also one of only seven institutions in the country that offers a fellowship in sports neurology with extensive training in the diagnosis and management of concussions and traumatic brain injuries. Through a collaboration with Arizona State University, Barrow fellows have the unique opportunity to participate in sideline concussion care for women’s soccer, women’s lacrosse, men’s football, and men’s hockey.

The nation’s leading concussion outreach for youth

The Barrow Concussion & Brain Injury Center is committed to providing comprehensive concussion education, so Arizona student-athletes can safely play the sports they love. Statewide collaboration in the area of concussion has created further opportunities to influence change in a meaningful and substantial way for Arizona student-athletes. The Barrow Concussion Network was formed through a collaboration between Barrow Neurological Institute, the Arizona Cardinals, the Arizona Interscholastic League (AIA), the Brain Injury Alliance, and Arizona State University. All members of the Barrow Concussion Network have a common goal: to prevent long-term injury caused by concussion in student-athletes.

Schools across the state now utilize the Barrow Brainbook, the nation’s first mandated online concussion prevention education course for high school athletes. Since its inception in 2012, more than one million Arizona student-athletes have completed the Barrow Brainbook, which is now offered in Spanish as well. Barrow Brainbook 3.0 will be released in 2023, reflecting current trends in concussion education with a focus on overall brain health, the dangers of repeated blows to the head, and information on how to recognize the signs and symptoms of a concussion among teammates.

Additional student-athlete outreach programs include the following:

  • The Center’s telemedicine program, which uses modern technology to connect certified athletic trainers and coaches to Barrow neurologists, ensures that high school athletes across Arizona have access to quality concussion care in real time, regardless of their location.
  • Training sessions for athletic directors on concussion detection.
  • Barrow Brain Ball, the first video game that educates young children about concussion.
  • High School Baseline Concussion Testing, the largest program in the nation, which uses the same tools as the National Football League, National Hockey League, and Major League Baseball.
  • These efforts are amplified by Dr. Cárdenas’s role as a neurologist on the NFL’s Head, Neck, and Spine Committee, where he advises the NFL on research and best practices for concussion prevention and management. He has brought many of the best practices used by professional athletes to Barrow to establish these first-of-their-kind concussion outreach programs for student-athletes

Providing hope and tools for domestic violence survivors to reclaim their lives

Research led concussion specialists at Barrow to make the first connection between domestic violence and traumatic brain injuries. Studies revealed that 92% of domestic violence victims were hit in the head more than once, 84% were both hit in the head and severely shaken, and 81% had been struck in the head too many times to count. In other words, they’ve suffered more blows than an NFL player, and without a helmet!

These startling finds led to Barrow opening the first-in-the-nation (and still only one of two) specialty program to treat traumatic brain injuries in domestic violence survivors. The Domestic Violence Brain Injury Program has helped hundreds of domestic abuse survivors reclaim their health and lives.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the nation saw a sharp rise in the number of cases of domestic abuse, highlighting the critical need for more awareness about this devastating reality. In spring 2022, the New York Times Magazine featured Barrow’s Domestic Violence Brain Injury Program in a story about the hidden epidemic of traumatic brain injuries caused by domestic violence.

The story details the journey of a woman who was repeatedly abused by her partner for over 20 years. When she finally left him to begin a life of her own, she struggled with debilitating symptoms of traumatic brain injury. Then, she found the Domestic Violence Brain Injury Program at Barrow. Here, doctors accurately diagnosed the extent of her brain injuries and provided a range of treatments, including psychotherapy, occupational therapy, and cognitive-speech therapy. Today, this brave woman is taking community college classes and hopes to build a career helping other women who have gone through similar situations as hers.

The team realizes how difficult it is to leave an abusive relationship and begin a new life. They found that, like the woman in the New York Times Magazine story, many survivors of domestic violence suffer from a full spectrum of symptoms related to their brain injury that do much more than just damage their health. These side effects can lead to the loss of a jobs, income, and eventually their home. That is why the Domestic Violence Brain Injury Program focuses on treatments and strategies that address cognitive issues survivors of domestic violence may be experiencing, including headaches, dizziness, vision changes, memory deficits, and limitations in language abilities.

The Program also partners with local shelters to offer Brains Club, a cognitive retraining workshop that addresses memory, attention, and other cognitive issues that many survivors of domestic violence experience, giving them both the tools and confidence to reclaim their lives. Additionally, the Program has expanded its educational efforts to provide both in-person training to staff in shelters and a virtual course for primary care providers to learn how to recognize signs of concussions in patients who have experienced domestic violence. It also has several research projects underway to evaluate the scope of injuries sustained in domestic violence victims and the effectiveness of interventions.

Thanks to generous gifts from our donors and grant funding, the Domestic Violence Brain Injury Program is able to provide these services for victims of domestic abuse regardless of their financial situation or insurance coverage.

Donations Help Support Concussion Research for Athletes and Domestic Violence Survivors

The Barrow Concussion & Brain Injury Center’s mission is to help as many patients as possible by preventing and treating concussions and traumatic brain injuries. They strive to offer every patient the right treatments and tools to overcome their injuries, regain their health, and start living their lives to the fullest. Donations allow the concussion team to provide the same level of care and expertise to domestic violence survivors as it provides to professional athletes.

Your donation supports:

  • The purchase of research materials used in studies to better understand the short- and long-term effects of traumatic brain injuries to inform new treatments.
  • Expanded outreach to domestic violence survivors, as well as research into the most effective therapies to help them overcome cognitive deficits caused by brain injuries.
  • Continued development and improvements for the Barrow Brainbook and other student-athlete concussion outreach programs.
Patient speaking to doctor in the concussion center
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