Nov 1, 2013 8:13 PM by Greg Smith
The best, and most widely used tool for concussion prevention and detection is a form of baseline screening called the IMPACT test. It's a computer program used by pro, college, and most high school athletes each year before the season starts. When a concussion is suspected, players retake the test to see if their brain function has declined. A problems with it is most organizations are using is as their only method of concussion prevention. Dr. Rocky Khosla says using it that way puts student athletes at risk
"Frankly, I do not think you should use the IMPACT test by itself, it was never meant to be that way. And you should never use it to diagnose a concussion. But it does help us figure out, when is a kid safe to go in."
Khosla runs his own sports medicine clinic, and works closely with District 60 and 70 as part of their concussion consultant program. It examinees all athletes in contact sports between the ages of 12 and 20, using the IMPACT test as just part of one of the most comprehensive concussion programs in the country.
"District 60 and District 70 are on the cutting edge," says Khosla. "We've got baseline testing on 90 percent of kids. We're pretty much the only program in the country that are doing this on such a large scale."
Another problem with baseline testing is sand-bagging. Athletes doing poorly on purpose so if they sustain a concussion in the future, brain function will appear normal.
"Those guys who designed the test put in a whole bunch of things that check for answers that don't make sense," says Khosla. "It's about lying right? You have to be consistent in your lie, you have to know who you lied to about what, and you can't get tripped up. Our rate of invalid baselines is about seven percent. That's pretty low."
"We know when a student is trying to manipulate the test," says Rock Macias, Athletic Director of District 60. "It just shows in their intelligence in the classroom, compared with what they've done on the test."
On top of baseline testing, D60 and D70 have employed a three-part return to play program after a concussion. It goes beyond what's required under law. They also make concessions in the classroom.
"We make accommodations academically," says Macias. "We tell teachers no testing for a couple of weeks, no homework. You have to be very careful what you're giving them because their brains are resting."
It's a few extra steps, but in the end, it's worth it.
"We don't want anybody dying," says Khosla. "We don't want anybody impaired, so please, please take this seriously. We're not trying to ruin anyone's day. I love football, I want kids to participate in team sports, but I want it to be safer."
Many school districts can't provide the same level of concussion prevention because of limited financial resources.
The final part of our series on concussions airs next friday at 6 and 10.