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Arizona First to Mandate Concussion Education for Athletes

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Arizona has introduced a first-of-its-kind concussion education program that requires all student-athletes to pass a formal concussion test before being cleared for sports.

The Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA), along with the Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center and the Arizona Cardinals, debuted their Brainbook concussion e-learning program on Tuesday, saying it will immediately affect more than 100,000 student-athletes in the state.

Brainbook is an approximately 50-minute concussion education program available online that all male and female student-athletes will have to take this year to be eligible to play sports. The program uses videos and a Q&A format to walk student-athletes through symptoms and signs of a concussion, encourage them to report all suspected concussions (even for teammates), and explain to them what to do if they have a concussion. (Take a test version of the program for a spin here.)

Best of all, it's laid out in a Facebook-esque format (complete with "Likes" and "Dislikes"), so Millennials should feel right at home. One downside to the program, however: There's nothing requiring users to completely watch each video. For anyone who's a half-decent guesser, he/she may be able to bypass a majority of the educational videos in the program. (Is this the 21st-century version of looking up homework answers in the back of the book?)

The test version of the program doesn't include a pre- and post-test, but students will be required to pass a formal quiz at the end of the program before taking part in interscholastic sports. They must answer at least 80 percent of the quiz questions correctly to be eligible, according to AIA Executive Director Harold Slemmer.

The online Brainbook program was developed because it would be impractical to go from school to school to educate student-athletes about concussions, said Dr. Javier Cárdenas, a neurologist at the Barrow Neurological Institute, in a press conference. Cárdenas said that the program aims to help student-athletes recognize the signs/symptoms of a concussion, know what to do after suffering a concussion, and ensure that they don't return to play before fully healing.

"We're not going to eliminate all concussions. We know that," Cárdenas said. "The most important thing is to make sure that you recover from those concussions."

Arizona's been on fire in terms of youth concussions this year. Remember, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed a youth-concussion law back in April. And in June, the Mayo Clinic announced that it would be offering free baseline-concussion tests for more than 100,000 Arizona student-athletes this school year.

In other concussion news: This isn't necessarily K-12 related, but it's huge news, nevertheless. Seven former NFL players, including ex-Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon, sued the NFL yesterday over the league's treatment of concussion-related injuries, making it "the first potential class-action lawsuit of its kind," according to the Associated Press.

"The big issue, for us, is they were told for decades to lead with their heads," the players' lawyer, Larry Coben, told the AP. "The NFL would never admit that there's any correlation (to later health problems)."

Coben may have a point. While the NFL is now on record as pushing all states to adopt youth-concussion laws, it was only two years ago that the NFL denied any link between concussions and brain diseases later in life.

This isn't even the first time former players have sued the NFL over concussions this year. Last month, 75 ex-players filed a lawsuit claiming that the league "knew as early as the 1920s of the harmful effects on a player's brain of concussions; however, until June of 2010, they concealed these facts from coaches, trainers, players, and the public."

Photo: A screenshot from the Brainbook concussion education program. (Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center)

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