Is it a concussion? How do you know when a young athlete can get back in the game?
Last week, Barrow Neurological Institute launched the Barrow Concussion Network, a comprehensive concussion prevention, treatment and education program that experts hope will raise awareness of the dangers of playing through a brain injury, and provide better screening and evaluation for young athletes who suffer injuries.
All Arizona student athletes now have the opportunity to undergo ImPACT testing, a concussion evaluation tool that helps determine when an athlete is well enough to return to play following a concussion.
The network is a partnership among Barrow, the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA), the Arizona Cardinals and A.T. Still University’s School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona. Funding provided by a grant from Dick’s Sporting Goods/Protecting Athletes through Concussion Education (PACE) will help support the program for 2012-2013.
How ImPACT reaches student athletes
Athletic directors, coaches, athletic trainers and primary care providers involved in the care and management of concussion in student athletes will have access to ImPACT, according to the network.
Athletic directors of eligible AIA schools will be contacted by the network through an email from ImPACT. They then must select an ImPACT supervising clinician (M.D., D.O., or Ph.D.) for their school.
As part of the network, Barrow also will launch a research registry to track concussed student athletes. The network hopes to gain insights into the long-term effects of concussion by following young athletes.
“The Barrow Concussion Network represents the only statewide comprehensive concussion management program in the nation,” says Javier Cárdenas, M.D., a neurologist at Barrow. “We now have all the tools to effectively evaluate and manage concussions in our state’s young athletes.”
How ImPACT works
Athletes who undergo the voluntary ImPACT testing will first take a baseline test to measure their cognitive level. When an athlete suffers a concussion, they will repeat the test and athletic trainers and doctors will compare the scores to help gauge whether the athlete is ready to return to play.
The computerized test uses words, shapes, colors and patterns to measure symptoms, reaction times and processing speeds.
“With this test, we’ll be able to look at how the brain is working now compared to how it was working before a concussion,” says Cárdenas. “It’s a valuable tool to determine when a player is safe to go back on the field.”
Brainbook and ImPACT
Last year, Barrow, the AIA and the Arizona Cardinals announced Barrow Brainbook, the nation’s first mandated concussion education and test for high school athletes.
Since its inception, Barrow Brainbook has educated more than 100,000 Arizona athletes. Brainbook is concussion education required by the AIA. To build on the success of Barrow Brainbook, the Barrow Concussion Network was formed to more effectively manage concussions once they occur. Both programs place Arizona at the forefront of caring for young athletes, according to a Barrow press release.
Harold Slemmer, Ed.D., executive director of the AIA, says that as a result of the program, Arizona’s players will be starting their season more aware of the dangers of concussions. “They’ve completed the concussion education and they now have many more resources available to help keep them healthy,” he says.