SPECIAL FEATURE: CHALLENGE YOURSELF
Four Santa Maria, California area high schools have implemented new computer software designed to prevent long-term brain injury from concussions. The software program issues tests and collects data on all student athletes before the beginning of each sports season. The data collected includes scores for attention, memory, processing speed, reaction time and nonverbal problem solving, a Santa Maria Times article said.
The tests are known as baseline tests, as they establish a standard of functioning that can be compared with new tests taken after a head injury. The comparison between the two sets of data will give doctors a better idea of the extent of the damage to the brain and the amount of time that will be needed before returning to strenuous activity.
By retaking the tests over the course of recovering from a concussion, doctors will be able to monitor the progress and know when the student has fully recovered once the student achieves baseline or higher scores using the special software.
Football, soccer, wrestling, and basketball players live with increased risks of brain injuries due to the full-contact nature of the sports. Since high-school students have brains that are still developing, it is even more important to keep them healthy, especially when a concussion has occurred.
The biggest mistake any coach, family, or doctor could make is to send a student back into play after suffering a head injury. A second concussion while the brain is still injured can lead to devastating long-term damage.
Four high schools, Pioneer Valley, Righetti, St. Joseph, and Santa Maria, have instituted the software program and have begun testing all student athletes at the beginning of the sports season to establish their baselines.
The program known as ImPACT is allowing coaches and doctors to immediately gather information about the extent of the damage incurred during student head injuries. Although it must be a part of a more comprehensive set of protocols for dealing with concussions, the program is a big step forward. Previous to gathering the baseline data, it was difficult for trainers and coaches to determine the full extent of concussion damage.
Since the tests can be done over the Internet in a matter of minutes, the ImPACT program is being hailed as a powerful tool to assist in mitigating the harmful effects of concussion in student sports.