The Minnesota Department of Health has begun tracking concussions at 42 high schools in an attempt to gauge how the injuries affect students.
Within the first seven weeks, 373 students were diagnosed as having had a concussion. Leslie Seymour, an epidemiologist with the Health Department, said tracking the injuries in fall sports, such as football and volleyball, is only the beginning.
"The whole issue was that we have no idea how big the problem is in Minnesota," Seymour said. "We would like to be able to quantify it, so that we can address what we can do to address the problem."
The schools were selected because they have contracts with Fairview's Institute of Athletic Medicine, which provides such athletic services as trainers. Trainers input information about the concussions into a secured-online system. They record when a student returned to class, returned to the sport, and whether the concussion occurred during practice or a game.
Lori Glover, who works with Fairview, said the tracking system does not include students' names, but is intended to monitor whether academic problems occur after a concussion.
"We have heard stories of students who lost scholarships because their grades went down," Glover said. "Students and parents sometimes don't understand that could be because of their concussion, and instead of struggling through it, they need to reach out for help."
Seymour said the Health Department will evaluate the study at the end of the school year and consider expanding the monitoring system.
"If it all goes well and schools are willing to participate, we can expand to include more schools and more sports. All trainers and coaches are very busy, and this is one more thing for them to do," Seymour said. "That's why we have tried to make it as minimal as possible for them."
Alejandra Matos • 612-673-4028 Twitter: @amatos12