Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Gorgens’ message about brain injury prevention goes global

Kim Gorgens

Professor Kim Gorgens speaks at TEDxDU in May 2010.

When head injuries sidelined NFL stars Ben Roethlisberger and Kurt Warner in 2009, Kim Gorgens saw a surge of interest in concussion-related work. The assistant clinical professor in DU’s Graduate School of Professional Psychology says there are many issues at play, including the cumulative effects of multiple brain injuries and the differences between the way high school athletes and professional athletes recover from blows to the head.

Gorgens shared her research with the University of Denver’s inaugural TEDxDU audience in May 2010, but her message now has a wider platform — and the potential to reach a global audience of millions.

Gorgens’ TEDx presentation — “Mind Your Matter: What You Need to Know About Concussions” — is being featured on, whose TEDTalks videos have been viewed more than 300 million times since 2006. A feature spot on is a rare honor: TEDxDU organizers estimate that there have been some 10,000 TEDx talks to date, but fewer than 40 have been featured on the TED homepage.

TED — which stands for technology, entertainment and design — is a nonprofit devoted to “ideas worth spreading.” At TED conferences, leading scientists, philosophers, entrepreneurs and artists present their ideas in 18 minutes or less. TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. Gorgens was one of 17 presenters at TEDxDU.

Gorgens also is chair of the State of Colorado Traumatic Brain Injury Trust Fund Board and a member of the Brain Injury Legislative Collaborative. In her TEDx talk she discusses the g-force of a concussion — the average is 95 g’s, greater than the force of driving a car into a fixed barrier at 40 mph or getting punched in the face by a heavyweight boxer. She also talks about the serious effects of concussions on young athletes.

“Kids are more vulnerable to brain injury,” she says in the talk. “High school athletes are three times more likely to sustain catastrophic injuries relative even to their college age peers, and it takes them longer to return to a symptom-free baseline. After that first injury, their risk for second injury is exponentially greater; from there, their risk for third injury is greater still, and so on.”

Gorgens also discusses research out of the NFL that suggests that among retired football players with three or more career concussions, the incidence of early onset dementing disease is much greater than it is for the general population.

She offers three suggestions for parents concerned about the safety of their active kids: study up (she recommends the site and the “Heads Up” pages at; speak up — to legislators, coaches and administrators — and suit up (always wear a helmet). “The only way to prevent a bad outcome,” she says, “is to prevent that first injury from happening.”

The University will host TEDxDU again May 13, 2011. Nominations for TEDxDU presenters and performers are being accepted through Dec. 1, 2010. Visit for more information or to submit a nomination.


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