TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - More than 40 percent of high school athletes who suffer concussions return to the game too soon according to recent studies. If a brain injury isn't completely healed, it can set a person up for more a serious, potentially fatal injury.
Seaman High School is among those taking steps to ensure that doesn't happen with their young athletes. Before they even step on the field or court, they take the Impact Test.
Mike Longhofer with Kansas Orthopedics and Sports Medicine serves as Seaman's athletic trainer. He says the Impact Test is a neurocognitive assessment of brain function. The computer-based test guides students through various tasks, recognizing or remembering shapes, words, numbers or colors. It uses those tests to evaluate athletes' reaction time, hand eye coordination and memory and also signs and symptoms they may be experiencing.
Students in football, volleyball, soccer and cheerleading at Seaman did baseline tests this week. An athlete would be re-tested following an injury and results compared to ensure they're not put back in the game too soon.
Longhofer says the evaluations are important because every athlete is different and every injury is different so there is no set time frame for how long it might take an individual's brain to heal. Return an athlete too soon, he says, could mean it would take less of an impact to re-injure or further the brain, leading to permanent damage, disability or even death.
Longhofer says it may take three or four repeat tests before an athlete is cleared to compete.
Kansas Orthopedics and Sports Medicine also does the Impact testing at Washburn Rural and Silver Lake. Longhofer says it complements other traditional observational tests, such as balance exercises.
Under a state law that took affect in July 2011, students who suffer a concussion must have written doctor's clearance to return to practice and competition.
Signs and Symptoms of a Concussion
Signs Observed by Others
Appears dazed or stunned
Is confused about assignment
Is unsure of game, score or opponent
Moves clumsily or has slurred speech
Answers questions slowly
Shows behavior or personality changes
Cannot recall events prior to hit
Cannot recall events after hit
Signs Reported by Athlete
Nausea or vomiting
Balance problems or dizziness
Double or fuzzy vision
Sensitivity to light or noise
Feeling sluggish or drowsy
Feeling foggy or groggy
Concentration or memory problems