U-M Concussion Center teams with Detroit Public Community School District to develop student-athlete concussion toolkit

The University of Michigan Concussion Center and Detroit Public Schools Community District have partnered to develop a concussion toolkit to improve concussion prevention, identification and care for student-athletes.

Two DPSCD student-athletes playing basketball this past season. Photo courtesy of Robert Allen McClain, studentandathlete.org..

The toolkit addresses gaps in concussion education, lists available resources and provides information about follow-up care, and was the product of a meeting with leadership from both organizations and coaches, staff and parents. It contains educational and procedural information on how to handle a suspected concussion and information on concussion care, management and treatment options. The Michigan High School Athletic Association also contributed expertise.

The toolkit was introduced to coaches and administrators during the DPSCD Athletic Symposium in August.

Friday, Sept.17, is National Concussion Awareness Day.

The district’s responsibility is to keep athletes as safe as possible, said DPSCD program supervisor Anika McEvans, who hopes to share the toolkit and lessons learned with other districts.

“With an incident like concussion, it’s important that we get it right and provide as much information as we possibly can,” she said. “For a parent who doesn’t deal with this on a regular basis, the ease of use and formatting that comes out of this is probably the most valuable thing.

“Very often, we get caught up in the work that we do for our district, but we discovered that this work could transition outside of our community into school districts all across the state.”

Carrie Morton, deputy director of the U-M Concussion Center, says “athletics is such an important part of the youth experience, and being able to work with DPSCD to provide resources, fill in the gaps where there previously weren’t solutions, and make athletics safer and more accessible to students is important to us at the Concussion Center.”

“The toolkit makes the information about concussion signs and symptoms much more accessible for everyone in the community,” she said.

The toolkit includes a “signs and symptoms” poster outlining the physical, mental and emotional signs of a concussion, and a link to the Michigan Sport-Related Concussion Training Certification course, a free resource that satisfies the state and MHSAA-mandated requirement for concussion training.

The center also created specialized flowcharts to guide coaches, administrators and families while students go through the process of concussion management, care and classroom return, which is overseen by the athlete’s medical provider. The flowcharts provide additional resources for parents, for example, a list of common questions for doctors, and also address return-to-learn and return-to-play guidelines.

Allyssa Memmini, a doctoral candidate at the U-M School of Kinesiology, provided the guidelines using clinical best practices regarding return-to-learn and sport. These include recommendations for academic accommodations, as well as a graduated return-to-sport protocol for coaches to use as a resource to ensure student-athlete safety as they engage in sport-related activities.

To improve access to care, the toolkit included information on HeadStrong Concussion Insurance (PDF) provided by the MHSAA. This program offers up to $25,000 for concussion medical expenses, including follow-up care, and is open to every athlete who participates in an MHSAA -anctioned event or practice.

“We wanted to make the information about the insurance program more accessible to parents. A lack of insurance coverage should never be a barrier to helping an athlete get the appropriate medical care following a concussion,” said Mark Uyl, executive director of the MHSAA.

McEvans said there is unequal access to resources within the Detroit population.

“We have families that have every resource imaginable at their fingertips or can afford any resource that is out there, but we also service a lot of families that don’t have access to adequate medical care or have access to top facilities,” she said. “For us, it’s critical that we bridge that gap wherever we can.

“To bring in the U-M Concussion Center and all their resources and credibility helps us stand in the gaps and advocate for our families to get the best care and support that we possibly can provide them.”

Jay Alexander, DPSCD executive director of athletics, said the U-M Concussion Center partnership is invaluable.

“What they bring to the table is not just a road map, but the ability for us as a district to instruct more effectively about concussions and the role our coaches play in trying to help our student-athletes through concussions,” he said. “Whenever you enter into any positive partnership, it can continue and go in multiple places. I love the fact that it’s the University of Michigan because the university has large resources and we would love to continue to tap into that.”

Steve Broglio, director of the U-M Concussion Center, echoed Alexander’s thoughts.

“The partnership with DPSCD has been inspirational,” he said. “Their openness to co-develop an educational and procedural toolkit for coaches, parents and administrators demonstrates their leadership and commitment to the safety of their student-athletes. We are pleased to be a part of that process and looking forward to an ongoing and fruitful relationship.”