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  • Partnering to Prevent Head Injury: The Program For Understanding Childhood Concussion and Stroke (PUCCS)

    Author: Renee Reynolds, MD

    The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that in the Unites States, 3 million sports and recreation related traumatic brain injuries occur annually. In spite of this considerable problem and substantial research into this “hot topic” there remain many unanswered questions regarding diagnosis and proper management. The ineffable nature of this condition lends itself to interpretation, controversy, and confusion surrounding the diagnosis and treatment algorithms to address it. Despite these controversies, most professionals agree that the best management of recreationally related concussion begins prior to participation, highlighting the importance of injury prevention education. This includes safe play with the promotion of proper technique such as tackling as well as ensuring proper helmet and equipment fit and use during all high risk activities.

    The substantial impact of head injury on patients and families and the lack of unanimity bring awareness to the large community need to educate youth athletes and create safe atmospheres of play as well as to advance our understanding of the condition. In Buffalo, NY, The Program For Understanding Childhood Concussion and Stroke (PUCCS) was developed to help address these needs. PUCCS is a 501(c)3 non-for profit organization founded in 2011 whose mission is to provide the tools necessary to understand and prevent concussions as an injury in all sports. As a primarily volunteer organization, PUCCS established strategic partnerships to help get this job done. This includes partnerships with our local Children’s Hospital, Medical School, professional sports organizations, and county legislators to further spread the message of the importance of brain health and a safe play.

    PUCCS works year round to support our mission through health fairs, large youth sporting events such as soccer, hockey and football tournaments and community programs to educate students, parents, coaches and health care professionals that “it’s ok not to be ok!” Through these venues participants are provided live demonstrations of the ways in which the brain is affected by head injuries and the protective effect of helmets on major injuries, and they also have the opportunity to wear concussion goggles to experience what a concussion may feel like. We distribute concussion cards, highlighting possible symptoms a patient may experience in the setting of a head injury and local resources a patient may contact if they are concerned about experiencing these symptoms in the future. PUCCS also organizes several helmet campaign giveaways and free helmet checks across a spectrum of environments from inner city health fairs to local ski clubs. Additionally, PUCCS was involved with local legislators to launch a new public awareness campaign that is designed to spread information about the newly passed law that requires the coaching staff of youth impact sports to take a concussion certification course every two years. Lastly, through fundraising efforts we have been able to support local research efforts in mild traumatic brain injury models including the establishment of a rat model of post-traumatic epilepsy induced by repeated mild head injury. Since establishment, PUCCS has distributed over 40,000 concussion cards and thousands of helmets, and has had exposure to over 100,000 people in the community and, through our website educational material, conceivably even more.

    These efforts hope to bring awareness to sports related concussion, the importance of prevention and the potential longterm impacts to make student athletes more comfortable understanding and reporting their symptoms. Despite prevention, traumatic brain injuries still happen. When they do, the impact to the patient and family can be life changing both functionally and financially. Recognizing these hardships PUCCS has also developed a direct patient support line. Through fundraising efforts those families affected by these injuries can receive support through gift cards for gas and food. For more information about sports related concussion, the local organizations involved in community outreach or how to get involved yourself visit

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