After developing the first Youth Sports Concussion Program for Kaiser Permanente in 2009, pediatric clinical neuropsychologist Catherine Broomand, PhD, set her sights on another far-reaching goal: encourage other health care systems in the Sacramento to establish similar programs.
The reason was simple, and alarming. Nearly nine out of 10 concussions go undiagnosed. As Broomand treated young athletes for sports-related concussions, she knew that a large number of non-Kaiser Permanente members were also at risk.
Less than two years later, Broomand successfully helped launch the Sacramento Valley Concussion Care Consortium (since renamed MindGame) — a volunteer-based endeavor among four health care providers (Kaiser Permanente, Sutter Health, Mercy/Dignity Health, UC Davis Health System), and the Wells Fargo student insurance program. Its mission is to raise awareness about concussions and provide student athletes with increased access to computer-based testing and medical professionals.
Tens of thousands of young people in Greater Sacramento now have access to tools and treatment that can help prevent serious brain injuries.
Broomand’s groundbreaking effort and her passion to improve the health of young athletes won her a prestigious national award within Kaiser Permanente this month: The 2012 David Lawrence Community Service Award.
The award, which is named for the former CEO of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals, recognizes Kaiser Permanente physicians and employees who exemplify outstanding community service. Broomand is one of 10 individuals from across the country to receive the award.
“I don’t feel this is my award,” Broomand said. “This is an award for the whole MindGame group of providers who donate their time and enable this program to exist.”
Concussions are considered to be traumatic brain injuries that can affect memory, judgment, and attention for a lifetime. Estimates suggest that more than 300,000 sports-related concussions occur annually.
While Broomand was hired in 2005 to see pediatric patients with a variety of neurological diseases, disorders, and injuries that affect brain function, she quickly developed a keen interest in concussions at a time when very little research existed on the subject. She found herself sought by children and adolescents who had suffered head injuries in football, soccer, motocross, and other sports.
The program she directs at Kaiser Permanente Roseville Medical Center consists of a protocol for treating concussions that relies in part on a cognitive computer test known as ImPACT. Used by NFL players, it also is taken by middle- and high-school students at the beginning of a sporting season. After a baseline is recorded, athletes retake the test following a head injury.
The providers connected to the Sacramento Valley Concussion Care Consortium, which was recently renamed MindGame, have administered baseline tests to more than 2,655 students since June 2012. Dozens of student athletes who suffered concussions have been held from play, due to the severity of their injuries.
Broomand, 38, has become a leading expert in concussions in the Sacramento area and beyond. She recently was appointed to a mild traumatic brain injury workgroup with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to assist in developing national clinical guidelines for doctors’ offices and emergency departments.
She also was instrumental in KP’s involvement with Heads Up, Northern California, a partnership with the CDC to raise awareness about concussions.
Broomand is president of MindGame, a nonprofit organization. She has received numerous inquiries from schools and sporting organizations representing thousands of students that have expressed interest in improving their concussion education and awareness efforts.
“It was really critical to make a program like ours accessible to everyone, even in a competitive health care atmosphere, and despite the athletes’ insurance coverage,” Broomand said. “We will make the biggest difference by coming together as a community.”
She added: “What’s most important here is to raise awareness on every playing field, and at every school, that concussions, treated and untreated, can cause chronic impairments, permanent brain damage, and even death.”
Editor’s note: The “News Digest” goes out every Tuesday morning and highlights our best stories, photos and videos from the week prior. Sign me up.