December 9, 2010

School gets smart about head injuries

Pinkerton Academy senior Danielle Kimball, who plays on the school’s basketball team, demonstrates ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) for athletes
 currently used by many area high schools, including Pinkerton.
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- Pinkerton Academy is not the first area high school to invest in a popular software program that provides baseline testing for student athletes at risk for a head injury or concussion.
But at a school with a student population the size of a small town, it’s an investment that is worth its weight in gold, said Headmaster Mary Anderson.
“This will give us peace of mind, knowing we’re doing
 something that may help a student from returning to play after an injury, before they’re ready,” Anderson said. 

The ImPACT software recently purchased by Pinkerton has been widely used by professional sports franchises including the NFL, NHL and NBA. It’s also the software of choice at more than half a dozen colleges and 16 sports clubs and high schools in New Hampshire. That’s because it provides a reliable gauge of neurological damage, said Pinkerton Academy athletic trainer Jamie Boudreau. 
“Test results are stored in a large database, and read by the head of pediatric neuropsychology at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center. In fact, in the last few days since we began testing, we’ve been contacted that a couple of our kids didn’t do so well, and so we’re going to retest them.” 
The test takes about 20 minutes and looks at speed and accuracy as students click the correct answers to a series of visual queues. 
“It was a little harder than I thought it would be,” said senior Daniel Barker, a Pinkerton wrestler. “We do hit our heads a lot. Honestly, it’s not something I’ve thought about all that much.” 
Although test results can be skewed if a student is nervous or sleep-deprived, the idea is to provide a baseline test that a physician can go back to should a student suffer a blow to the head or concussion during practice or a game. 
“Back when I was participating in high school sports, if you got hit, all you had to do was be able to do some push ups, sit ups, run straight and not throw up, and you could get back in the game,” said Pinkerton Athletic Director Tim Powers. 
Years of study have shown that cognitive deficits do show up over time, said Pinkerton Assistant Athletic Director Andrea St. Onge. 
“While the physical symptoms of a concussion may go away quickly, it may be years before the effects of the damage show up,” St. Onge said. 
Other more recent studies conducted by Boston University researcher Dr. Ann McKee suggest a possible link between repeated head trauma and later-in-life ailments such as Alzheimer’s disease and Lou Gehrig’s disease, Boudreau said. 
“Concussion has become a big buzzword in athletics, all the way up to the professional leagues. ImPACT is a great tool that has to be used with other protocols to help us return athletes to play only when they’re ready,” Powers said. “The thing about brain injury is that you put a kid on the sideline after a hit, and maybe you can’t see the damage. Maybe he or she seems OK. But 10 or 15 years down the line, that’s when cognitive deficits begin to show up.” 

No comments:

Post a Comment