Northside Hospital's Concussion Care-A-Van provides free baseline testing and preventative education.

It’s a car. It’s a bus. No, ladies and gentlemen, it’s Northside Hospital’s Concussion and Sports Medicine Care-A-Van!

This fall, an RV sized vehicle has been making its stops around town at festivals, schools, ballgames and childcare centers. Northside Hospital’s Concussion and Sports Medicine Care-A-Van is fully staffed and equipped to handle sports emergencies, but that’s not the reason the Care-A-Van was created.

“When this thing first started coming about — a sports medicine and concussion caravan — you sort of had it in your head as this mobile unit that could respond to injuries; that is something that’s a side effect of it, but the main thing is to see it around town and to keep concussions at the forefront of the conversation when it comes to the health of children and teenagers and even adults in the community,” said Marketing Manager Andy Hardy of Discovery Point, a continuing sponsor of the Care-A-Van. Visit https://www.discoverypoint.com/ to learn more.

In many ways, the Care-A-Van — a retrofitted mobile mammogram unit — serves as a “rolling billboard”, spreading awareness about the silent threat concussion injuries pose. “There’s this culture from a sporting standpoint that, ‘oh, he got his bell rung’ or he got his ‘clock cleaned’, or he got the ‘wind knocked out of him’, and you get back up and you shake off the cobwebs, as they say, and you get back in the game. But more and more research shows that you can’t be that cavalier about it, and a very small injury to the head can have lasting effects. It’s also compounded with each successive injury, so concussions can be exponential in terms of their impact,” Hardy said.

The opportunity arose when the mobile mammogram unit became less needed as breast cancer screenings became “ubiquitous” in local clinics, and so Discover Point’s CEO Cliff Clark sponsored the vehicle’s retrofitting. The vehicle now includes more than 10 concussion baseline testing stations designed for athletes 12-59; a pediatric component to safely test younger athletes ages 5-11, and during its tour, a licensed athletic trainer will be on staff to offer further assistance in a specially designed examination room.

The community is encouraged to take advantage of the free concussion baseline testing, where they will receive a score of their regular cognitive function. In the case of an injury, the score will be a helpful reference as health professionals determine a recovery plan individualized to the patient.
 
“It’s a very detailed mind path that they put you through that creates a baseline score that if ever I should get into any kind of accident later on,” Hardy said.

The goal is that as the Care-A-Van becomes a familiar sight, it will spark a wave of educated conversations and concussion services. If successful, the billboard on wheels will follow a similar trajectory as the old Mammogram mobile unit.

There remains much ground to cover — the Care-A-Van launched its second fall season on August 23 at Coolray Field for the 2019 Corky Kell Classic; it continues its seasonal journey making stops at Discovery, Centennial and Central Gwinnett High School. This concussion-prevention machine will wind through Duluth for the Duluth Fall Festival (9/29) before stopping at Providence Christian Academy (10/18) and then at Duluth High School (10/25). Last but not least, the Care-A-Van will park outside Norcross High School (11/08).

Before concluding the fall season, the Care-A-Van will make a few additional stops at childcare centers across the county. For Discovery Point, a major childhood education and care franchise with locations across the southeast, this is a critical step in preventative concussion education.

“We are tremendously proud to sponsor the Care-A-Van,” says Discovery Point president and CEO, Cliff Clark in a press release. “It is such a rare and unique project that I wanted to make this a public partnership and truly a joint effort between Discovery Point Franchising and the Gwinnett Medical Foundation. I felt it truly represents both my own personal interest in supporting the advancement of medical research and technology and also Discovery Point’s commitment to the health and safety of the children in our community.”

Folks are invited to have their baseline test at any of the upcoming events. To learn more visit: https://www.gwinnettmedicalcenter.org/sports-medicine/concussion-institute/concussion-institute.