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November CONSULT

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Collaborative group raises injury, concussion awareness

Published on Friday, November 1, 2019

By: Annie Oeth, aoeth@umc.edu

In Mississippi, on average, 18-25 children per 100,000 population die from all types of injuries, far exceeding the national rate of 11 per 100,000 population.

No one is immune from accidents, but a little awareness can make mishaps fewer and less harmful.

That’s the message of an effort by members of the John D. Bower School of Population Health, the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s School of Health Related Professions, Children’s of Mississippi, Safe Kids Mississippi, University of Mississippi athletics, the Mississippi High School Athletics Association, Mississippi Public Broadcasting, the Brain Injury Association of Mississippi and other community partners.

The group, initially founded by a grant from the Association of American Medical Colleges, is bringing the message of injury prevention and concussion awareness across the state with additional grant funding from the Mississippi Nurses Foundation and the Childress Institute for Pediatric Trauma.

Portrait of Michelle Goreth

“We want to educate people throughout the state on how to prevent injuries,” said Michelle Goreth, UMMC associate professor of nursing and nurse practitioner in general pediatric surgery. “When many people think of injuries and concussions, they think of football, but we see concussions in children of all ages that result from a variety of injury patterns, such as falls and motor vehicle collisions.”

With grant funds, members of the team travel to meet with community groups, schools, teams, health fairs and more, taking with them “concussion goggles” that help wearers recognize the symptoms of concussions. The eyewear blurs vision, causes dizziness and delays reaction times, simulating some of the symptoms of a traumatic brain injury.

Portrait of Lee Jenkins Moss

“Talking to students has done a lot of good,” said Lee Jenkins Moss, executive director of the Mississippi Brain Injury Association, “and we hope to do that more and more.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that some 3.8 million concussions occur each year. Moss said the number of Mississippians who suffer concussions each year is difficult to calculate, because only one in six are diagnosed, according to the Concussion Legacy Foundation.

“We held a concussion panel at the Jackson Medical Mall for several high schools,” Moss said. “We asked at the beginning if any of the students had experienced a concussion, and no hands went up.

“The presentations went on, and we asked them again. This time, they had questions and wanted information.”

“We’re trying to get the word out that there isn’t ‘just a concussion,’” Goreth said. “A concussion is a traumatic brain injury. When people think of it in those terms, they realize that they should take the injury and recovery more seriously.”

Amy Lowery, UMMC nurse practitioner, said the main concern about concussions is that a second impact to the brain could result in brain swelling and death.

The group’s presentations started in Greenville and Corinth, areas that have seen serious traumatic brain injuries in football during the past year.

“We want to go throughout the state and let parents, coaches and students know the truth about concussions,” Lowery said. “Ninety percent of those with concussions do not lose consciousness and what the (concussion) symptoms are.”

Concussion symptoms can vary by individual, but common symptoms include dizziness, headaches, blurred vision, nausea and vomiting, slurred speech, confusion, and delayed response to questions.

Dr. Jennifer Reneker, UMMC associate professor of physical therapy who has presented accident prevention information through the Heads Up Mississippi program during the past three years, said she is happy to see that the educational effort is continuing.

Pediatric nurse practitioner student Christina Shields watches as a Fitness Fest attendee learns more about injuries by trying a physical challenge while wearing concussion goggles.
Pediatric nurse practitioner student Christina Shields watches as a Fitness Fest attendee learns more about injuries by trying a physical challenge while wearing concussion goggles.

“We are approaching accident and concussion prevention from a public health standpoint,” she said.

Jennifer Reneker

Reneker said often in Mississippi, the secondary issues that come with a concussion are not recognized as being related to a traumatic brain injury.

“Interdisciplinary follow-up care is needed for conditions that can include problems sleeping, depression, headaches and anxiety,” she said. “Primary care providers may need more information on concussions, as we know so much more about them than we did even three years ago.”

Portrait of Elizabeth Foster

Safe Kids Mississippi, a project that shares safety information throughout the state, is also spreading the word on accident prevention. According to Elizabeth Foster, project manager for safety and community outreach, the Safe Kids sports concussion and teen driving simulation includes a 15-minute presentation, followed by an in interactive simulation to show the symptoms of a concussion and the consequences of distracted driving.

For more information about bringing an accident-prevention program to your group or team, email headsupMSconcussion@umc.edu or safekids@umc.edu.

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