Silver Chips Online

All student athletes required to take baseline concussion test

Blazers must be tested before participating in school sports

By Martha Morganstein, Online News Editor
September 16, 2013
This school year, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) implemented a mandatory baseline concussion test for all student athletes participating in a school sport. The test is a tool used by doctors to provide a baseline testing score for students in order to determine the severity of a concussion and decide when a student can return to play.

Football Blair's game against Kennedy featured a lot of tough hits. Connor Smith
Football Blair's game against Kennedy featured a lot of tough hits.
MCPS used a software tool called Immediate Post Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT) which created the countywide computerized test. A letter to MCPS parents from Director of Systemwide Athletics, William Beatie, stated, "If an athlete is believed to have suffered a head injury during competition, ImPACT can potentially be used to help determine the severity of the injury and when the injury has fully healed."

Most Blazer athletes took the test during the summer in one of the computer labs at Blair. The online test has a variety of questions, including multiple choice, fill in the blank and click the answer. The questions assess cognitive abilities such as memory skill, reaction time, speed, association and correct answers. "It tests the brain activities that are impaired when it is concussed," Blair's Athletic Director Rita Boule said. The baseline test provides doctors and parents a score to compare to when a student is concussed. "It gives the health care provider, baseline, statistical data and personal percentiles to compare to when a student receives a concussion," Boule said.

Concussions testing proved important after the Blair vs. Kennedy football game. Connor Smith
Concussions testing proved important after the Blair vs. Kennedy football game.
Last year, the test was offered for students upon request, but was more widely used for high collision and contact sports like football and lacrosse. Now concussion testing is required for all of Blair's athletes, even those participating in sports such as swimming and cross country. "Head trauma is possible in any sport. And even in some sports that you wouldn't think a concussion can happen for example, cross country, they simply do," Blair's football coach Andrew Fields said.

According to Boule, nine student athletes reported concussions at Blair last year. The sports in which most of the concussions were reported were lacrosse, football, girls' soccer, field hockey, gymnastics, cheerleading and basketball. "It is not only football players who get concussions. For a lot of the sports, kids donít have headgear or other protection when they hit their head," Boule said.

The test also provides the school and doctors a basic idea of how much accommodation the student should receive. The school might allow the student to come half a day or give a limit on the amount of homework the athlete can receive. "If a student has been concussed, then their learning is going to be impacted, so this is a really good way to help the teacher accommodate the student while there dealing with the concussion," Boule said.

Boule explained that one of the reasons that MCPS implemented the rule was because of the nationwide attention concussions have received. The National Football League (NFL) has been involved in multiple lawsuits involving concussions. Last week, the NFL agreed to pay $765 million to former players and their families who have had health problems because of concussions during their time in the league.

The short test can help prevent long-term problems. "The test only takes about 30 minutes. It's not cost inhibitive or time inhibitive. Concussions are life threatening over the long term, if you don't take them seriously, which is why the test is important," Fields said.

http://silverchips.mbhs.edu/story/12158