BrainSPORT program focuses on concussion prevention and recovery in youth athletes
Photo: The UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Program is part of a brain health partnership that includes the UCLA Brain Injury Research Center and the Easton Clinic for Brain Health.
- Brain injury program provides diagnosis and treatment for all levels of athletes.
- Safety, performance, outreach, research and treatment (SPORT) are key program components.
- Staff also provide neurological assessments for military service members in the UCLA Operation Mend program.
Close to 2 million Americans ages 18 and younger experience sports- or recreation-related concussions every year. Concussions are a type of traumatic brain injury that occurs when the brain moves rapidly inside the skull due to a bump, blow or jolt to the head or body. High school and college athletes who play contact sports such as football, hockey and soccer are particularly susceptible to concussions.
To help youth athletes prevent and recover from concussions, Christopher Giza, MD, UCLA pediatric neurologist, established a specialty pediatric brain injury clinic in 2002. The clinic was renamed the UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Program in 2014 after Tisch, a movie producer and co-owner of the New York Giants, who supports the program’s efforts within the UCLA Department of Neurosurgery.
“Physical activity is critical to long-term brain health, but some activities also carry risk,” says Dr. Giza, director of the BrainSPORT program. “Our goal is to facilitate safe participation in competitive and recreational sports for everyone, including youths who have pre-existing neurological conditions such as epilepsy and migraines.”
The “SPORT” in BrainSPORT stands for safety, performance, outreach, research and treatment. Over the past four years, more than 2,000 young people have come to the program for concussion diagnosis and treatment. The program also treats high-level athletes from collegiate, Olympic and professional sports leagues, and provides neurological assessments for military service members in the UCLA Operation Mend program. Patients can also receive treatment for other sports-related neurological problems, such as nerve issues, neck injuries and migraines.
BrainSPORT conducts preseason neurological evaluations for more than 1,000 student-athletes every year. Should an athlete sustain a concussion during a sports season, doctors use these assessments to gauge the severity of the concussion and guide recommendations for recovery. The program also offers educational classes for athletes and parents, as well as concussion certification classes to help coaches and athletic trainers identify signs of concussion and aid an athlete’s safe return to activity after
“We offer neurology assessments, neuro-psychology, sports medicine, short-term cognitive behavioral therapy and occupational therapy on-site,” says Dr. Giza. “We also work with school academic and sports personnel to safely return a student to mental and physical activity.”
In 2013, Dr. Giza and his team worked with the American Academy of Neurology to craft the first evidence-based guidelines for physicians and coaches to use when evaluating and managing athletes with sports-related brain injuries. The team also contributed to the 2017 International Consensus Guidelines for Concussion in Sport.
BrainSPORT is part of a comprehensive brain health partnership that also includes the UCLA Brain Injury Research Center and the newly established Easton Clinic for Brain Health. To learn more about BrainSPORT, visit uclahealth.org/brainsport.