The University Interscholastic League, or UIL, is requiring the state’s largest public schools to report sports concussions for the 2019-2020 school year. Developers say the Concussion-Texas project, known as ConTex, headquartered at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center’s O’Donnell Brain Institute, is one of the nation’s largest statewide endeavors to track brain injuries in young athletes.
Neuropsychologist Munro Cullum says ConTex has, until now, been voluntary for all Texas schools.
“The UIL wanted to increase the level of participation, and their medical advisory committee decided that starting with the [Division] 6A schools, being the largest and the most well-equipped with trainers and whatnot, would be the best place to start with mandatory reporting,” Cullum says. “They want to see how that goes over the course of this coming year and then see where we go from there.”
Cullum says the data could do more than just let researchers know how often these injuries are occurring.
“When schools switch to, for example, a new turf or a new helmet, in the case of football, or new tackling procedures … we want to know if those changes and the rule changes also are having any positive impact on reducing concussions,” Cullum says.
Cullum says football tends the get the most attention when it comes to concussion risk, but many sports put athletes at risk for concussion, including soccer, basketball and cheerleading, he says.
“If you look at the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] statistics, kids falling off bicycles is the No. 1 cause of concussions in people under the age of 20.”
Cullum says concussions are fairly common and should not necessarily be feared, but it is also possible for students to have a concussion-free athletic experience.
Written by Laura Rice.