Concussion awareness campaign plays it safe

Northwestern Medicine used its resources to educate people who are involved with youth sports about head injuries just before concussion legislation passed in Illinois.

Organization: Northwestern Medicine (Chicago)
Campaign: Playing It Safe: Changing the Mindset Around Concussion Safety
Duration: June 21 – August
Budget: about $10,000

Northwestern Medicine, which represents a collaboration between Northwestern Memorial Hospital and the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, used its resources to educate people who are directly involved with youth sports and the public about head injuries just before concussion legislation passed in Illinois in late July.

“We have the expertise, the law was about to be passed, and it's a serious issue,” says Tom Garritano, Feinberg's senior executive director of communications.

“We wanted adults to be more aware and proactive about identifying concussions, and we wanted to communicate that young athletes should be forthcoming [about possible head injuries],” explains Northwestern Memorial Hospital's PR director Kris Lathan.

The in-house team leveraged the expertise of hospital and Feinberg physicians in neurosciences, orthopaedics, and sports medicine. A partnership was established with the Illinois High School Association (IHSA). Other organizations, including the Illinois Trainers Association, the NFL, and the CDC, lent support.

A symposium, media relations, and social media outreach drove messaging.

The hospital hosted the symposium on July 27. Attendees included athletic directors, trainers, coaches, and school representatives. Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Hampton gave the keynote. Other speakers and panelists included physicians, IHSA representatives, local athletes, lawyers, local sports journalists, and helmet scientists.

Local and regional media were targeted. Physicians conducted a Chicago media tour. Pitches included symposium information, follow-up pertaining to the concussion law, and back-to-school sports safety angles.

Symposium attendees received concussion safety toolkits that the team created from CDC materials. They included a poster with 20 field assessment points.

Microsite housed additional educational materials and promoted the symposium. The hospital, Feinberg, and IHSA also promoted the event on their websites.

The hospital and Feinberg posted information including quizzes, physician interviews, polls, press releases, media coverage, and event photos on their Facebook and Twitter pages. The team posted live on both Twitter and Facebook during the symposium and took questions from Twitter followers.

The symposium drew 121 people, exceeding the goal of 100.

Between June 21 and August 18, the microsite got 2,252 page views and 83 campaign-related tweets appeared. Campaign-related Facebook posts generated 61 likes (combined for the hospital and Feinberg).

More than 660 stories ran in outlets such as Chicago magazine, AP, Fox Chicago, Comcast SportsNet Chicago, and

The team hopes to continue to use physicians' expertise and partnerships to drive messaging on sports medicine-related topics.

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