H-SAN LUIS OBISPO

Apr 1, 2013 8:35 PM by Cameron Polom, KSBY News

New test to identify concussions

Coaches, athletes, doctors and parents are becoming increasingly aware about the danger of on-field concussions.

One local sports therapy team and Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center are teaming up for a new test aimed at young athletes.

The test is meant to give doctors a base for measurement, meaning if an athlete sustains a head injury during a sport, they will have information on record about how that athlete's brain was functioning before the injury.

Then, they'll have the athlete take the same test again after the injury and compare the results.
The test gives doctors a better idea whether they're ready to return to play.

"What we've learned in the last five years is the research is showing that youth athletes respond differently to concussions and they also heal differently than adults," said Stacey Ritter of San Luis Sports Therapy.

Ritter and her team use a computer program to measure cognitive skills in their athletes.

"It's not just testing memory and recall, but it's testing accuracy and efficiency and impulse control," said Ritter.

Using numbers, colors, patterns, shapes, and words, Ritter can get a better idea of your pre-concussion brain function.

If an athlete does suffer a head injury, they can compare those pre-concussion numbers to a post-concussion test.

"We can see compared to their baseline, if they're still processing information very slowly, their reaction time has slowed, or if they're having problems with recall or taking in new information, we know the brain is still likely in the process of healing," said Ritter.

Giving doctors one more tool off the field, to get athletes back on it.

"It benefits the athlete," said Ritter. "It benefits the parents having that piece of mind that every possible step has been taken to assure that their athlete is qualified and ready to go back to play after a head injury."

To help offset the cost for some parents and students, Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center provided a grant for this program that pays for seven high schools to send their athletes in for testing.

According to the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, as many as 50 percent of concussions go unreported due to mild symptoms.

Those symptoms can include dizziness, fatigue, nausea, headaches, and even in some cases, depression.

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