On Tuesday, Arizona became the first state in the United States to mandate all male and female athletes undergo concussion education and pass a formal test before play through a new program specifically geared toward students. The program is expected to become a model for other states to follow.

Arizona ranks second in the nation for traumatic brain injury and until now, there has never been a mandated education and testing program designed for student athletes to teach them about the dangerous effects of concussion.

Twenty-eight states, including Arizona, have concussion laws that require concussion education, removal from play and return to play. Arizona is the first to define and create the education directly targeting students through a new e-learning module and the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) is the first to require that every student complete and pass the education module in order to participate in athletics. This program, designed by AIA, Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center and the Arizona Cardinals, is expected to change the face of high school sports in Arizona.

“The AIA recognizes the seriousness of this debilitating brain injury and is proud to be taking the lead in changing the way athletes are educated about traumatic brain injuries associated in sports,” says Harold Slemmer, Ed.D., Executive Director of the AIA. The AIA is an association of public and private high schools throughout Arizona that oversees interscholastic activities including athletics in 275 schools.

“There are approximately 3 million sports-related concussions nationally each year,” says Javier Cardenas, MD, neurologist at Barrow in Phoenix, who has taken a statewide lead in concussion prevention. “Players recognizing the signs and symptoms of concussion can prevent death and disability.”

All student athletes through the AIA will receive their concussion education through Brainbook, an interactive online site created by Barrow and Arizona State University. Designed to look like a social media site, the students are taken through a series of educational content, activities and videos. At the end of the module, the students are required to pass a formal exam before being cleared to play. The module is the first collaborative educational effort between a pro football team, a hospital, and an interscholastic agency. Brainbook is currently being evaluated for implementation in other states throughout the nation.

In addition to the education program, Barrow has received a $250,000 grant from the Maddock Foundation to develop a research registry which will track concussed student athletes. This will be a powerful tool for Barrow neurologists and researchers to make never-before-known insights into the long-term effects of concussion.

The AIA, Barrow and the Arizona Cardinals have been partnering for the past year to create this milestone program. The NFL and the Arizona Cardinals have been very instrumental in passing concussion legislation.

“We are pleased to have worked with Commissioner Goodell's office to help protect young student athletes in all sports,” says Michael Bidwill, President of the Arizona Cardinals. “This education module and research program today takes the Arizona legislation passed in February to the next level. We are very proud to be part of this revolutionary program.”