To ensure better management of sports concussions, physicians at Emory Sports Medicine Center have incorporated Immediate Post-concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT) into their program for high school athletes.
"The computer-based test is a breakthrough for concussion management," says Ken Mautner, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Orthopaedics at Emory University School of Medicine. "It eliminates much of the uncertainty and nervousness about return to play. We can finally objectively evaluate what has always been a very subjective decision. It is the equivalent of giving the brain a physical exam. I recommend it to athletes of all levels."
Concussions are not an unusual injury for athletes who participate in contact sports. However, athletes who are sent back into the game before the brain is allowed to heal are at risk for more serious injury.
"Previously ImPACT was available only to athletes on collegiate, elite or professional sports teams, or within athletic organizations," says Dr. Mautner. "Now more and more high schools and clubs are using this test to provide better information about whether or not is safe for their athletes to return to activity."
Concussions are caused by sudden and violent rocking of the brain inside of the skull from a traumatic blow to the head or upper body.
Concussions occur in about 10 percent of all athletes in contact sports. Symptoms vary in length of time and may include amnesia, disorientation, confusion, fogginess, headache, blurred vision, nausea, fatigue and sometimes loss of consciousness.
Athletes in the ImPACT program take a 20-minuted baseline test on a computer that measures brain processing such as speed, memory and visual motor skills.
Each individual's data are stored in a computer file. In the event of injury, the athlete will take the ImPACT test several times in the days following concussion. Post-concussion data are then compared to baseline data to help determine the severity and effects of the injury.
Most athletes recover completely as long as they are not returned to play too soon. Unfortunately, repeated concussions are cumulative and may cause critical damage to the brain.
Media Note: There will be a concussion conference sponsored by the Emory Sports Medicine Clinic on Sunday, August 5, 2007, at 59 Executive Park South from 8am - 12 pm. For more information about the conference, call Forest Pecha at 404 778 7176.