Education and Baseline Testing Are First Steps in Concussion Prevention
A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that alters the way your brain functions. It’s caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth.
This sudden movement can cause the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, stretching and damaging the brain cells and creating chemical changes in the brain.
Unfortunately medical providers often describe concussions as “mild” brain injuries, because concussions are usually not life threatening. But let’s be clear … a concussion is a brain injury. Your brain controls every function in your body. When it is injured on any level, it’s going to wreak havoc on your life.
The CDC reports concussions have doubled in the last 10 years. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports ER visits for concussions in kids ages 8 to 13 have doubled, and concussions have risen 200% among teens age 14 to 19. One in five high school athletes will sustain a sports concussion each season. The reality is, when your child plays sports it’s more a matter of when it will happen than if it will.
There is nothing you can do to definitely protect your child from concussion. The key is what you do when a concussion happens. Concussion management starts even before the injury actually occurs. It starts with knowing how to recognize a concussion and having valid neurocognitive baseline data on your child before they ever step out on the field.
Concussion signs and symptoms are easy to learn. Great educational resources can be found online at www.cdc.gov/headsup/youthsports/. But what about this baseline testing we hear so much about?
The idea is to measure an athlete’s normal brain function in a state of wellness. Then, if a concussion occurs, the same test is taken again, allowing pre and post injury data to be compared. It is best to have individualized data on your child’s brain, rather than simply comparing them to general population data. This data then helps health care professionals better gauge the depth of injury and craft a more effective concussion management plan for your child.
The most widely used baseline test on the market today is the ImPACT Test. It is a simple computerized test that measures attention span, learning and memory skills, response variability, problem solving and reaction time. The test should be administered in a controlled environment by a trained ImPACT proctor. At home tests are not valid. The test takes about 30 minutes to complete and should be taken every two years.
ImPACT is not a “pass” or “fail” test but one that provides a baseline of data that can be very helpful when diagnosing and treating concussion. Test data is stored in an online database that any doctor subscribing to ImPACT’s concussion management services will have access to 24/7. Baselines are not stand-alone diagnostic tests, but just one tool in the toolbox for your medical professionals to use to deliver comprehensive care.
The exciting news is that on Saturday, April 23 Gwinnett Medical Center’s Concussion Institute is offering free baseline testing for anyone and everyone in the community ages 12 and up. Testing will be held at various high schools across Gwinnett from 9 am to 1 pm. They will also offer some great concussion education sessions, so you can learn even more. This is a great way to help your family be as prepared as possible should a concussion happen. Register for your baselines today – go to www.gwinnettsportsmed.com and click on Concussion Institute.
You can contact Paige Havens by email: Havensp@bellsouth.net or call 678-938-4279