Personal Passion Unites Collaborative to Improve Concussion Care in Central Minnesota

For Dr. Kelly Collins, concussion care isn’t just professional. It’s personal, too.

Collins comes from a family of six children — a very athletic family. In fact, several of her brothers went on to play at the professional level in their respective sports. She and her family loved to cheer them on, whether on the sidelines, in the stadium or on television from afar.

Unfortunately, those cheering sessions were first dampened, and then cut short, due to head injuries that drove several of her brothers to give up their professional careers before their time.  Today, the lasting effects of those injuries are still a regular reality: severe headaches, dizziness, vertigo and neck pain. For Collins, it is a regular reminder that drives her passion for work every day.

Dr. Kelly Collins

Dr. Kelly Collins

Watching them struggle has led me to never want a family member or community member to have to go through that on their own,” Collins said.

Collins’ experience was part of the inspiration for Project BrainSafe, a communitywide concussion education and awareness program launched by CentraCare Health in St. Cloud in late 2014. The goal of the program is to unite providers, athletes, coaches and community members under one common goal: to better prevent and treat concussions and other traumatic brain injuries in central Minnesota.

Since Project BrainSafe’s inception, Collins, founding partner Dr. George Morris and the CentraCare team have been working to develop improved standards of care for concussionsconsistent diagnosis and treatment methods so that all concussion cases are detected and everyone receives the highest quality of care. The collaborative is funded in part by CentraCare Health Foundation, which granted the program $440,000 in May 2015.

“The goal is to provide consistent concussion care from the hospital to the sidelines, so we’re working with our partners to develop protocols and standard care practices,” said Collins. “We want to make sure that we’re all thoroughly educated on concussions and that any member of the care team who comes into contact with a concussed patient is fully aware of symptoms and consequences of the injury.”

Project BrainSafe is developing these standards of care in collaboration with community partners such as St. Cloud Orthopedics, St. Cloud Medical Group, HealthPartners Central Minnesota Clinic, Williams Integracare and NovaCare, as well as ophthalmology and optometry groups in St. Cloud and the surrounding area.

Another way Project BrainSafe is broadly implementing consistent standards of care is by increasing the use of ImPACT baseline testing in high schools. At Sartell High School in Sartell, Minnesota, students and coaches are using ImPACT baseline testing to ensure concussions are detected early and treated correctly.

Scott Pickler, project and grant manager for Project BrainSafe, said, “Sartell High School has a solid adoption rate, above 75 percent this past fall season, for football student athletes receiving and completing ImPACT tests. With the baseline test, providers, parents and coaches can more quickly and accurately determine when a concussion has occurred and can design the best plan to get a student safely back in class, and back on the field.”

The collaborative has many other initiatives that are planned to further improve concussion care, awareness and education, including a one-day concussions symposium scheduled for spring 2016.

Collins said, “Our hope is that people will look to Project BrainSafe as an example and see how we’re cooperating to achieve this important goal of creating concussion-safe communities, even beyond central Minnesota.”

Visit to learn more about Project BrainSafe and to test your knowledge about concussions.