Makaylah Gerling - September 27, 2023
A concussion treatment program is being piloted for fall sports at TPHS, providing student-athletes with an initiative aimed at minimizing injuries that keep them away from their classrooms and sports.
The program is run by TBIVirtual, a company specializing in concussion care that has ties to TPHS. TPHS alum Brian McGuire (‘95), the vice president of TBIVirtual, approached TPHS faculty late last school year with a proposal to bring concussion education to his alma mater. Alongside Ryland Wickman, McGuire brought the program to the TPHS Foundation. Wickman serves as the chief athletic adviser for TBIVirtual and works at TPHS as a special education teacher, junior varsity softball coach and varsity flag football coach.
The program was piloted at TPHS through a partnership between TBIVirtual and Sway Medical, a mobile platform that offers baseline testing for balance, cognition and function abilities. It can be accessed by students via an app that tracks their health and communicates that data to their athletic trainers, coaches and parents.
“This partnership…gives us so much more data about [students’] balance, memory [and] reaction time,” TPHS athletic trainer Zayna Green said. “Having that information can help us better adjust the students’ classroom environment while they’re healing, and it will help them heal as safely as possible.”
The process starts with a baseline $5 assessment from Sway Medical, which can be accessed via a personalized code given to the student upon registration. This registration process is run by Green.
Along with the baseline assessment, athletes can take a five-minute screening during a game to determine if they should immediately return to play after a collision or play-related head injury. The mobile app can also track symptoms post-injury by utilizing the “return to play” feature.
With this data, Green can refer athletes to TBIVirtual for concussion treatment. Depending on the injury, TBIVirtual treats athletes using one of three methods: circadian therapy, brain inflammation therapy and mind/body therapy. Depending on which protocol best fits, treatment prices range from $250 to $1,500.
Attempting to create a safer environment for student-athletes, the program aims to allow athletes to pursue their sports while protecting their health.
“I think ultimately we’re going to see some very positive results,” TPHS foundation director Joe Austin said. “We’re going to see more students returning to play and returning to learn more quickly and with less adverse effects.”
Not only will this be a positive addition to athletes’ physical well-being, but it will also contribute to more positive mental states, Green said.
“The partnership is really providing our student-athletes with expert-level care,” Green said, noting that mobile health tracking will decrease the wait- time for injured athletes to be assessed, which is especially important with head injuries.
Many TPHS athletes have struggled with concussions in the past that have affected their ability to participate in the classroom and on the field. One of those athletes is TPHS field hockey player Lucie Schroeder (12).
“The recovery process was very challenging both physically and mentally. Beyond the terrible symptoms, it is frustrating being limited from school, sports and extracurriculars,” Schroeder said.
Over the course of a few months, Schroeder experienced three concussions. The time she was required to take off from school and sports was very difficult, considering her varying symptoms dictated how much time she needed to heal.
“Brain injuries are unlike your typical broken bone injuries because there is no way of tracking how bad the injury is, how long it will take to heal, or if the brain is even healing,” Schroeder said. “The worst part about the recovery process for me was not even being able to think straight”
TPHS rugby player Michael Sullivan (12) dealt with similar issues after a concussion.
“I think [this program] will help people heal faster, because many people don’t do the right things with a concussion and end up hurting themselves more,” Sullivan said.
If the TPHS pilot program is successful, the program’s administrators aim to expand the mobile health assessment across SDUHSD schools and later throughout the nation.
“I really hope that this catches fire at TPHS and that other schools follow soon,” Austin said. “[It’s important to us] that students have this information and get better as a result of it.”