In an effort to provide the best medical care and athletic training services to our local community and its high school athletes, Blount Memorial Total Rehabilitation is donating ImPACT tests to five area high schools. The software allows athletic trainers and physicians to make better decisions on returning an athlete to play after they have suffered a concussion.
The software implementation is in support of the new concussion policy that was brought into effect by the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA), which requires member schools to be more proactive in identifying and treating athletes who show signs of concussions. The software is being donated to sports departments at Alcoa High School, Greenback High School, Heritage High School, Maryville High School and William Blount High School.
“The ImPACT test is a computerized neurocognitive assessment tool that assists health care professionals and athletic trainers in determining an athlete’s fitness to return to play after suffering a concussion,” Blount Memorial Total Rehabilitation sports medicine coordinator Peggy Bratt explains.
The software evaluates an athlete’s attention span, working memory, sustained and selective attention time, response variability, non-verbal problem solving ability and reaction time. These are tested through six computer modules including practices such as word memory, symbol matching, three-letter memory and color matching.
“The athletes first are given baseline tests to see how they perform without a brain injury, so that when or if they sustain a concussion we can compare the before and after results,” Bratt says. “The test is repeated any time there is evidence of a concussion, which is defined as any head injury that results in a headache and/or dizziness, all the way up to and including any loss of consciousness.” Tests are administered by the athletic trainers and results are read and analyzed by a physician and an athletic trainer. A physician then would make the ultimate decision on whether or not the athlete could return to playing his or her sport.
The TSSAA implemented the new concussion policy that all member schools must follow beginning with the 2010-11 school year. The policy states that every individual involved in athletics must become more proactive in identifying and treating athletes who show signs of concussions. In order to address this critical issue, the National Federation of State High School Associations has drafted the following language and made it a part of every sport rulebook publication: “Any player who exhibits signs, symptoms or behaviors consistent with a concussion (such as loss of consciousness, headache, dizziness, confusion or balance problems) shall be immediately removed from the game and shall not return to play until cleared by an appropriate health care professional.”
Bratt says that the ImPACT donations, which have a combined value of $2,200, help the five high schools comply with this new TSSAA policy. “It helps the schools comply by providing neurocognitive values, which are not otherwise available, to assess the athletes’ return to play readiness.” Implementation of the ImPACT program began on Friday, July 30, and Total Rehabilitation still is in the process of performing baseline testing on athletes in each school.
“ImPACT allows us to continue to provide the best possible care for our local high schools,” Bratt adds. “It provides us with a proven tool to keep our athletes safer in the event of a head injury. We no longer have to rely on the athletes’ subjective reporting of symptoms for return to play. ImPACT testing gives us objective measurements of the athlete’s brain function.”