By Jim Mustard, Director of Facilities and Athletics, and Kersty Weaver, Athletic Trainer
What is concussion?
A concussion is a type of mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or body which causes the head and brain to move back and forth quickly. This movement can cause the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, creating chemical changes in the brain and sometimes stretching or damaging the brain cells. (CDC, 2015)
What are we doing to prevent concussions?
Though it can be hard to “prevent” an unexpected jolt to the head, we ARE taking preventative measures. Every contact sport athlete at YCDS takes the ImPACT Test prior to the start of their season. This test helps to create a baseline of your child’s cognitive functions (though it’s NOT an intelligence test) so that, should they sustain a concussion, we can compare their functioning post-injury to their functioning pre-injury. The ImPACT test is NOT a “full-clear, go-ahead” test, rather it isn’t the determining factor in whether or not your child can return to play post-concussion. It’s one tool in health care providers’ toolbox to help determine readiness.
What happens if a concussion is suspected?
If a concussion is suspected during practice or a game, your child cannot return to play the same day. This is a safety protocol which will be strictly enforced to ensure the safety and well-being of all student-athletes at YCDS. Once the athletic trainer has determined concussive symptoms to be present, your child will be referred either to their primary care physician or to one of Wellspan’s sports medicine physicians. Our team physician, Dr. Lavallee, has “Training Room” days where he will stop in and see athletes with injuries. If this day is not convenient to the injury, we can refer to several other locations so the athlete can be seen rapidly. Conversely, you can schedule an appointment with your child’s primary care physician. After symptoms of the concussion have resolved and a physician has cleared your child to begin a return-to-play protocol, the athletic trainer works to return your child to play safely and successfully. Additionally, once symptoms resolve the athlete will retake the ImPACT test to help assess return to normal cognitive function. The YCDS Return-To-Play Protocol is as follows:
- Step 1: Light aerobic activity, non-contact (Day 1)
- Step 2: Sport specific activities, non-contact (Day 2)
- Step 3: Sport specific activities and drills, non-contact (Day 3)
- Step 4: Full contact drills with teammates (Day 4)
- Step 5: Full practice and/or game participation
Through all of these steps, the athlete must remain symptom-free. Should any symptoms return, the athlete will drop back a step until symptoms resolve, and then they will begin progression again. Once all steps are completed successfully, the athlete will be cleared of their concussion.
A Note on the ImPACT Test:
ImPACT® (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) is the most widely used and most scientifically validated computerized concussion management tool available. ImPACT comes in two forms:
Baseline Test – Administered by a physician, nurse, athletic trainer, athletic director, or coach before the start of a sport season, school year, or other activity. Baseline scores are collected and stored on our HIPAA compliant server. ImPACT recommends re-administering the baseline test every two years.
Post-Injury Test – Administered by a licensed healthcare provider when a concussion is suspected. Test results are compared to baseline scores and/or normative data scores as part of a healthcare provider’s assessment of the injury. Multiple post-injury tests may be given to an individual during the course of treatment and rehabilitation.
Here’s How ImPACT Works:
- 25-minute computerized, online test for ages 12-59
- Delivered via a secure web portal
- Taken via a desktop computer (PC and Mac compatible) that has an internet connection and a mouse
- Administered in the presence of a physician, nurse, athletic trainer, athletic director, or coach (only a licensed healthcare provider can administer an ImPACT post-injury test)
- Results interpreted by a licensed healthcare provider
What does ImPACT measure?
The test tracks a student’s symptoms and measures multiple aspects of cognitive functioning, including attention span, working memory, sustained and selective attention time, non-verbal problem solving, and reaction time.
*This information is provided by ImPACT Applications Inc. (2017).