Nationwide, about 300,000 sports-related concussions are estimated to occur each year, affecting as many as 20 percent of contact-sport athletes every season.* Most of these athletes recover fully, but a small number experience chronic cognitive and neurological difficulties related to recurrent injury. This “Post-Concussion Syndrome”—which may include chronic headaches, fatigue, dizziness, memory problems and other symptoms – is exacerbated, sometimes with catastrophic consequences, with a second blow to the head during recovery from the initial concussion.
This summer, Holland Hospital began implementing a testing program at local high schools to evaluate athletes in the pre-season period in order to help practitioners determine if and when it’s safe for them to return to play after a head injury. Called ImPACT—Immediate Post-concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing—the test establishes a baseline neurological screen for each student athlete that can be used to objectively measure and track recovery following a concussion. The goal of ImPACT, widely recognized and used throughout the world for athletes from age 10 to professional-level adults, is to prevent serious injury from successive concussions.
ImPACT testing is conducted at Holland, West Ottawa, Zeeland East, Zeeland West and Hudsonville high schools by the schools’ athletic trainers, specially trained members of Holland Hospital’s rehabilitation staff who work regularly with the students to help build performance and prevent injuries. The computer-based program takes about 15 minutes per student and measures aspects of cognitive functioning, such as attention span, working memory, attention time, non-verbal problem solving and reaction time.
Holland Hospital’s Physician Advisory Group for Sports Medicine recommends that all freshmen student athletes, first-time athletes and transfer students who will be playing contact sports receive ImPACT screening. In the event of a head injury, they are required to repeat the test and get a doctor’s clearance before returning to play. Even then, strict adherence to best-practice Return-to-Activity Protocol is required.
WHAT IS A CONCUSSION?
A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that alters the way the brain functions. Concussions are usually caused by a blow to the head, but they can also occur when the head and upper body are violently shaken. They can cause erratic behavior or temporary loss of consciousness, but are usually not life-threatening. A concussion will not show up on a computed tomography (CT) scan.
If you or a loved one suffers a head injury, don’t be afraid to seek medical care right away. Holland Hospital’s emergency department team is here when you need us.
* Source: impacttest.com.