Concussion testing is crucial for young athletes
By David Volz / July 1, 2014
Fall is almost here, and for many young people that means participating in competitive athletics and making sure they are healthy enough for any sport they choose.
Those who want to participate in middle and high school sports must undergo a physical designed to detect any potential health problems that could affect a young athlete during practices and competitions.
City recreational and travel teams may not require a physical, however healthcare experts recommend young people get them anyway. It is particularly important, experts say, for them to be tested for concussions.
"We recommend that every child and teenager who is going to play sports get a baseline concussion test," says Cathy Parra, regional manager of rehabilitation services at Broward Health Coral Springs, which offers a Concussion Care program. "Many people are concerned about concussions currently and our test allows us to see how a child's mind is reacting before a concussion can happen."
Broward Health Coral Springs offers an ImPACT test, which physicians use to determine the severity of a concussion. The tool allows physicians to compare the pre- and post-concussion cognitive function test scores so treatment options can be determined. It also helps in deciding when an athlete can return to competition.
The ImPACT test measures attention, verbal and visual memory, processing speeds and reaction times. It is a baseline test to provide clinical information when determining if a young person has suffered a concussion and when the athlete has reached full recovery, according to Parra.
Before a season begins, the athlete will take a computer based test administered by a trained health professional. The test takes about 25 minutes and collects information to measure cognitive functions in different categories. If an athlete sustains a concussion, the results of the pre-ImPACT concussion test are compared with follow-up tests. Experts in concussion management will use the baseline and post injury tests, along with other neuropsychological assessments, to determine the best treatment plan for the injured athlete. The National Centers for Disease Control recommends this test for every young athlete.
"We use vestibular therapy for young people who suffer dizziness after a concussion. This rehabilitation focuses on the reflexes of the eyes and ears. The goal is to reduce symptoms of dizziness," Parra says.
Helping athletes who have suffered concussions can often enable them to return to competition sooner.
"We also help young athletes regain their confidence to get back to playing sports," she adds. "We want to protect children by giving them tools to prevent injury and to deal with the results of an injury should one occur."
Broward Health Coral Springs works on a regular basis with children who have suffered concussions to help them return to normal function.
The medical center also offers flexibility tests to determine how effectively athletes and young people in general move when playing sports. These tests are known as function movement screens. These test involve joint flexibility and strength. The results are used to design an exercise program that will reduce the likelihood of injury.
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