AUSTIN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – How often do Texas high school athletes suffer a concussion? It’s a question the state has been unable to answer.
For two years, the University Interscholastic League (UIL) and researchers at UT Southwestern have been trying to track concussions among Texas students.
The project goes by name, ConTex.
“The big overarching question is how often are these injuries occurring in youth athletes, male and female,” said Dr. Munro Cullum, a neuropsychologist who is overseeing the study
While one in three Texas schools agreed to report their concussions to the project, far fewer have actually done it. Only 6 percent of schools are currently reporting their injuries.
“That’s a very small percentage,” Cullum said. “Until we know just how many injuries are going on out there it’s going to be really difficult for us to study and learn what are best practices, what works best.”
Last school year, 2,789 suspected concussions statewide were reported to the ConTex project.
For perspective, when the CBS 11 I-Team conducted its own survey of just 46 North Texas districts, it found 3,527 concussions. That’s more than 700 more reported concussions than what the ConTex project collected during the same time span for the entire state.
Last month, the UIL voted starting next year to mandate large 6A schools to report concussions.
There are 250 schools that make up Class 6A in the state, leaving nearly a thousand Texas schools without any requirements to report concussions.
Cullum said, “It’s certainly a step in the right direction, and we will be able to make more conclusions, but the conclusions that we will be still limited to the 6A schools.”
UIL Deputy Director Dr. Jamey Harrison said the reason the UIL is not mandating all schools next year to report concussions is because the UIL medical advisory wants to first to make sure the research project will work.
He said the new 6A mandate is a one year trail run.
“This type of research is far more complicated that what anyone realizes, “Harrison said. “I think we are doing as much as we are possibly able to do at this time.”
But not everyone agrees.
Dr. Brent Masel, a neurologist and Executive Vice President of Medical Affairs for Centre for Neuro Skills, said by tracking concussions only from 6A schools, health issues unique to smaller school could be overlooked.
Masel said he sees no reason why the UIL should not require all school to report their concussions.
Reporting concussions to ConTex can be done online or through an app.
Schools report the age of the player, date of injury, nature of the injury, playing surface, and whether there was a loss of consciousness.
Researchers said the process of reporting an injury should not take more than 15 minutes.
UIL said the time it would take schools officials to report the injury was not a factor in its decision to not mandate reporting for all schools.
“I don’t see a negative consequence to requiring all schools to report,” Masel said. “I think mandating the 6A schools is a great start but it’s only a start.”