Concussion and Brain Injury

Leading Concussion Research Facility for Athletes & Domestic Violence Survivors

Programs that Save Lives

Concussions are the most common type of traumatic brain injury (TBI), can cause serious impairments if not treated properly. 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. Recently, there has been increasing concern about the safety of student athletes, many of whom sustain at least one concussion per year and may not know the dangers of letting a head injury go unreported or untreated. Another, often overlooked, population prone to repeated concussions are survivors of domestic violence. Even after leaving their abusers, these individuals often lack access to proper medical care to treat their TBI symptoms.

The Barrow Brain Injury & Sports Neurology Center at Barrow Neurological Institute, led by Javier Cárdenas, MD, provides comprehensive treatment for patients with concussion and TBI. The team offers the same level of expert care to domestic violence survivors as it does to professional athletes. The Center is also home to novel concussion outreach and education programs for youth athletes.

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
Download Report

Donate to help support concussion research for athletes and domestic violence survivors

The Barrow Brain Injury & Sports Neurology 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. 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.

Concussion & Brain Injury Center by the numbers

Concussion research provides comprehensive care for all brain injury survivors

Prominent athletes, teens, and adults from all walks of life visit Barrow to be treated by Dr. Cárdenas and his colleagues. In addition to providing comprehensive clinical care, the Barrow Brain Injury & Sports Neurology Center emphasizes concussion treatment and prevention through three main pillars: education, outreach, and research. To expand its expertise to more patients, the Center offers a fellowship in sports neurology with extensive training in the diagnosis and management of TBI.

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 Brain Injury & Sports Neurology Center is committed to providing comprehensive concussion education, so Arizona student-athletes can safely play the sports they love. To address growing concerns about concussions in student-athletes, the Center formed the Barrow Concussion Network, a collaboration between Barrow, A.T. Still University, the Arizona Interscholastic League (AIA), and the Arizona Cardinals, to provide concussion outreach programs. 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.

Student-athlete outreach programs include the following:

  • Telemedicine Program: connects Certified Athletic Trainers to Barrow neurologists in real time during games, so they can assess student-athletes as soon as a concussion is suspected.
  • Training sessions for athletic trainers 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.

Clinical research findings were staggering

Of 115 domestic violence patients 0 suffered “too many head injuries to count”
Only 0 of patients sought medical care at the time of at least one of their injuries
Of people who suffered domestic violence as a child 0 went on to be abused as adults

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

The first-of-its-kind Domestic Violence Brain Injury Program, led by Glynnis Zieman, MD, provides compassionate care to survivors of domestic violence with TBI, giving them both the tools and the confidence to reclaim their lives.

The Program focuses on addressing cognitive issues that domestic violence survivors often experience, including headaches, vision changes, memory deficits, and mental health concerns. The Program also offers speech therapy sessions and partners with local shelters to provide Brains Club, a cognitive retraining workshop designed specifically for survivors of domestic violence with TBI. Additionally, it provides in-person training on TBI symptoms to shelter staff and offers a virtual course for primary care providers on how to recognize signs of TBI in patients who have experienced domestic abuse.

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.

On the Horizon

The Center plans to launch an updated version of Barrow Brainbook, which will be available in a mobile-friendly format and will reflect current trends in concussion education, focusing on overall brain health, repeated head impact, recognizing the signs and symptoms of a concussion, and keeping an eye out for teammates. Barrow Brainbook 3.0 will be available for the world to see when the Super Bowl comes to Arizona on February 12, 2023.

The Domestic Violence Brain Injury Program plans to expand its services outside of local shelters by partnering with Native American communities across Arizona, as well as an organization that helps teens who have just aged out of the foster care system. The Program also plans to expand its research efforts and has several studies underway to evaluate the scope of head injuries sustained by domestic violence survivors and the effectiveness of interventions. Additionally, the Program is in the process of obtaining a copyright for the Brains Club curriculum so it can provide the workshop to other shelters nationwide.

Patient speaking to doctor in the concussion center
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