Whereas society previously adhered to the findings of the Kennard Principal – believing that brain injuries sustained as a child would have a better outcome than those sustained as an adult – more recent research is pointing to the reverse. In line with new train of thought, Peter Thompson, PhD, one of the leaders of the Douglas County School District’s Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Team, has made it his life mission to educate the public and protect our children from from the devastating affects of injury to the head.
“This is my thirteenth year working for Douglas County School District,” he proudly stated. “We (The TBI Team) started about 12 years ago, and at the time, I was working with Paulette Joswick, Director of Health and Wellness at Douglas County School District.” Together they started the brain injury team would eventually create standards and practices for brain injury management for DCSD and other districts to emulate.
“We educated ourselves about brain injury and brain specialty, neuropsychology, things of that nature,” Thompson recalled. “That second year, we started doing some cool things in the district…trainings, presentations and setting up some good management programs in our schools.”
However, it would be a few years before the eclectic group gained momentum within the district. “I would say that it’s probably been the last 6-8 years that we have had a more evolved concussion protocol that is very effective at the high school level.” Utilizing time and resources, they developed a simple, but thorough, model that works.
At the starting gate, potential athletes signing on for contact sports undergo specific testing.”In August, they give the ImPACT test to approximately 3000 plus students every year,” explained Thompson. “It’s a team effort, using multiple systems, to really help and protect kids.”
After that, should an athlete sustain a concussion, the TBI team at each high school is ready to step into action. “There’s immediate intervention,” Thompson explained. “As soon as we pull the kids off, we do an assessment, and long term management for the concussion takes place.”
The pre and post-injury comparison then identifies the severity of the specific injury so Thompson and his teams can connect families to inside and outside support. Monitored over time, the student’s recovery is periodically evaluated to try and get them to meet standards that will hopefully return them to play.
“Every year we slightly improve it and we have more communication,” he noted. “This year in particular we’re on a springboard to do some nice things in the district, some even better things.” Things that have all hands on deck so as to minimize the probability of students taking a substantial hit to the head.
“Dr. Fagen (Douglas County School Superintendent) has really put forth some robust safety initiatives and we’re really good at the management once a kid gets hurt,” he continued, “And because of her endorsement, we were able to put together this new TBI Manual.”
Eventually, he sees the new manual and its formula for handling youth TBIs setting Douglas County Schools apart from other districts in the tri-state area, if not the country.
And Thompson wants to be clear that the focus is not just on safety for student athletes playing contact sports, it’s about providing support for any age student in DCSD that undergoes an insult to the head.
“The mission is built upon something I personally believe is a higher calling…anytime you can help kids, that’s what this is about,” Thompson affirmed. “They’re not old enough to withstand a lot of insults and we (adults) have an ethical obligation to help and protect them.”