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CrashCourse educates young people on the prevention and treatment of concussions.
We work with our stakeholders to identify global health challenges to determine if they can be addressed through targeted health education.
As the number of concussions steadily increases so does national attention on the need for effective prevention and treatment. An estimated 2.5M concussions occur each year in the United States alone. It’s an all too common sports injury, yet it’s surrounded by myths and misconceptions. Much is still unknown about the human brain, even with the latest medical technology. While science is evolving, concussions remain, in large part, a mystery.
Three out of five high school athletes don’t report their concussions. Young people are often unaware they have a concussion or they are afraid to speak up. Like many challenging health topics, concussions have also become stigmatized as many athletes opt to play through the pain, not fully understanding the consequences. With better prevention education and evolving treatment protocols, together we can support athletes to best navigate through social, structural, and political pressures in order to elevate their performance.
We seek to understand the socioeconomic, medical, and cultural influences impacting the problem.
We aimed to understand the reasons why youth were not reporting concussions and the role education could play to shift this perspective. Our approach began with conducting thousands of hours of interviews across more than 600 stakeholders, including coaches, parents, teachers, and youth athletes. With the target of understanding the culture around sports injuries, our reach was broad and deep — ranging from interviews with local high school athletes to Team USA Olympians.
We discovered that concussions were at the center of many competing challenges. First, although there were ample materials available for parents, coaches, athletic trainers, and medical professionals, there was a dearth of customized research-based education for young people. This was problematic because most decisions to report concussions were ultimately in the hands of the injured youth and their teammates.
Second, rapidly evolving science meant existing materials were often incorrect or outdated. For instance, medical experts shared countless stories of parents administering treatment plans based on misconceptions (e.g., concussions only occur from direct hits to the head, concussions are more serious if there is a loss of consciousness, concussed youth should be woken up periodically to be checked on).
Third, the increasing prevalence of concussions among youth was coupled with an abundance of media attention shedding light on the issue. However, constraints with time and space through news outlets made it difficult for concerned individuals to understand the full picture. Young people often came away with and made decisions based on fragmented knowledge.
We identify solutions that will resonate and thrive in complex and diverse communities.
After collaborating closely with academics, researchers, and doctors, we turned our attention to the target audience: young people. Over the past two years, we worked with hundreds of youth spanning middle school through college. The sessions were conducted formally via two classes offered by Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education. Through numerous design thinking activities and hundreds of iterations on the storyboard, college and youth collaborated with leading experts to build the most engaging curriculum possible. Together they discovered that virtual reality offered an unprecedented opportunity to educate and engage youth on this topic. It provides the opportunity to truly immerse young people in experiences unlike any educational medium out there. CrashCourse is concussion education reimagined for today’s education.
Four areas were identified as necessary to comprehensively educate on this complex topic.
Research revealed that information needed to be packaged in a storyline delivered by trusted voices. This meant no doctors. No parents. No teachers nor even coaches. Youth were most eager to learn from role models who were recently in their shoes and emphasize with the challenges they face. This need for education provided via “near-peer” role models resulted in the recruitment and close collaboration with the nation’s best college athletes.
We developed a short interactive film that puts the viewer on the field during a football game and features Stanford football players, including All-American Bryce Love, sharing the latest medical knowledge about concussion prevention and treatment. This education was designed to speak in the language of young people and address their concerns about concussions.
Young people don’t always know what a concussion looks and feels like. This leads to many of them deliberately hiding their injuries from their loved ones, or worse, not recognizing and seeking treatment for their concussions. The Symptoms Simulator is designed to help them recognize the signs and symptoms of a concussion and empathize with anyone with this invisible injury.
Unlike “visible” injuries, such as a broken bone, concussions cannot be seen in the same way. Even the most powerful medical imaging technologies (MRIs, PET scans, CT scans) cannot detect concussions. Not being able to “see” the injured brain further complicates the understanding of this injury. Using the exact same technology that Stanford’s leading neurosurgeons use to guide surgeries, the Brain Fly-Through allows young people to explore a real human brain and visualize its complexity.
And finally, research with young people revealed the need for both ‘aspirational’ and ‘inspirational’ trust. At one level, incorporating voices of leading college athletes into CrashCourse provided youth with role models that were close enough in age to guide them in attaining their more immediate goals. At another level, utilizing voices of long-standing and respected celebrity athletes provided inspiration to youth to want to be at their best in the long run. Sharing insights from such diverse sports heroes leveraged the trust and reputation of respected athletes to raise awareness around concussions and shift the conversation away from fear and silence towards knowledge and empowerment.
We secure strategic partnerships with prominent national and community partners.
With sports being at the intersection of many complementary disciplines, we are building a coalition to engage the most powerful influencers across the world. Together we aim to provide this robust education to youth globally. From policy makers, medical institutions, foundations, and media outlets to schools and sports organizations, we are joining forces to provide much needed comprehensive education to those who need it most, for free. We have built collaborations with Stanford University, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, Team USA Olympics, UCSF, and Brain Trauma Foundation, among others.
To ensure the creation of medically accurate, unbiased, and trusted materials, TeachAids only accepts funding from entities with no conflicting interests.
Our mission is to provide access to our lifesaving health education to as many people as possible.
Working with our existing partnerships across 250+ organizations, we will utilize our footprint in 82 countries to disseminate the CrashCourse products globally. Our product suite will be available for free through our Creative Commons License. To date, we have secured partnerships to reach thousands of youth across every major school district in the United States. All athletes — regardless of their location, sport, and school — will have access to the curriculum.