Academics and Research / News

DU professor helps author proposed concussions law

Kim Gorgens

Professor Kim Gorgens speaks at TEDxDU in May 2010. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

A University of Denver professor spent much of 2010 helping prepare a bill Colorado lawmakers are now considering that addresses concussions among school-aged athletes.

Kim Gorgens, a clinical assistant professor with the University of Denver Graduate School of Professional Psychology, worked with physicians, nurses, school officials and leaders of several Colorado organizations to draft a position paper that has now become Senate Bill 11-040.

“I think what we’ve created is a bill that will make Colorado proud,” says Gorgens, who has spent much of her career studying and researching head injuries.

The measure includes three key elements:

• Specialized training for coaches, trainers and others who work with students.
• Students with suspected concussions being pulled from play.
• Athletes returning to play only after being cleared by a professional with expertise in concussion management.

Colorado State Senator Nancy Spence (R-Centennial) submitted the bill to the state Legislature on Jan. 14. The proposed law could come up for consideration as early as late January.

Gorgens, who is also the chair of the Colorado Traumatic Brain Injury Trust Fund — an entity the Legislature created to provide statewide care coordination and services to those with traumatic brain injury — says Colorado is “toward the front of the pack” of states developing legislation on concussions.

Gorgens estimates that nine other states have passed laws.

“A few states raced through quickly following public momentum and some of those ended up not really reflecting what research suggested was needed,” Gorgens says. “I think Colorado did it thoughtfully and included everyone who had an interest, including attorneys, and there was a good meeting of the minds. No one got everything they wanted, but everyone left the table pretty happy.”

Gorgens believes Colorado is doing a good job addressing concussions and head injuries.

Specifically she mentioned the Denver Veterans Administration’s “groundbreaking research” on head injuries, and she praised Kenny Hosack, director of provider relations with Craig hospital for his work on the bill.

“He has, for decades, always been at the forefront of work on this at the local, state and federal levels,” Gorgens says. “He and Craig Hospital have put Colorado on the map for this topic.”

Gorgens invited her DU students to attend meetings on the position paper and bill and some did. One student in DU’s sports and performance psychology program attended, networked with group members and is now doing some career-related work with the Colorado Avalanche, the state’s pro hockey team.

“That’s exactly why I wanted students involved. It can turn in to some fantastic opportunities for them they can’t get elsewhere,” Gorgens says.

On March 4, DU will host the fourth annual translational neuroscience conference from 7:30 a.m.–4:45 p.m. in the Driscoll Center. The conference features national experts on head injury care. All proceeds go to community organizations focused on head injuries. Visit for more information. For more information on concussions and brain injuries, visit,, or

Gorgens spoke about concussions at the 2010 TEDxDU at the Newman Center for the Performing Arts.

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