7,207 Maine High School Athletes Received Baseline Neurocognitive Concussion Tests in 2010
When Boston Red Sox pitcher Josh Becket sustained a concussion in spring training this past winter, fans knew about it. The same could be said for Minnesota Vikings quarterback, Brett Farve, as the media reported extensively on his season-ending brain injury this past December. But what can be said of the hundreds, if not thousands, of Maine high school athletes sustaining concussions each year?
Thanks to the Maine Concussion Management Initiative (MCMI), the awareness and identification of mild traumatic brain injury among high school athletes has risen dramatically over the past two years. In fact, the 55 Maine high schools participating in MCMI’s program performed 7,207 baseline neurocognitive concussion tests on student athletes during 2010. Among those athletes, 737 athletes or 10.2% of participants were re-tested during the season after incurring a suspected concussion.
Founded in 2009, MCMI’s primary goal is to educate coaches, parents, trainers and students about concussions and to increase awareness about the seriousness of these injuries. The nonprofit organization also seeks to standardize concussion management throughout the state. Establishing neurocognitive testing in all 155 high schools in Maine is an important component of that goal.
Neurocognitive testing is an objective measure for determining both the nature and extent of an athlete’s concussion. The ImPACT neurocognitive test used by MCMI's concussion experts establishes baseline brain function by measuring verbal and visual memory, visual motor speed, reaction time and impulse control at a time when the athlete is free of concussion. Then, if a concussion is sustained during the season, the athlete is tested on ImPact to determine the extent of impairment and when it is safe to return to activities.
The ImPACT Clinical Report above shows the baseline concussion symptom score for an athlete on August 18, 2010. In January 2011, this same athlete experienced a head injury. She was tested on January 10, and a concussion was confirmed. A subsequent test on January 17 shows that the athlete was still experiencing concussion symptoms. After another 10 days of rest and recovery, the athlete was tested and cleared to play on January 27, 2011.
“Prior to neurocognitive testing, concussion management was inconsistent and poorly defined,” said Dr. William Heinz, co-founder of MCMI and a sports medicine physician at OA Centers for Orthopaedics. “Neurocognitive testing of the kind supported by MCMI, coupled with gradual return to play guidelines as recommended by the Zurich Conference on Concussion Management, assure that our young athletes are fully recovered from concussions prior to resuming full academic and athletic activity.”
With a concussion diagnosis, athletes are placed on a rest and recovery protocol designed to speed their recovery based upon their individual symptoms. The cornerstone of concussion management is physical and cognitive rest until symptoms resolve and then a graded program of exertion prior to medical clearance and return to play. This always means that an athlete refrains from immediate return to an athletic contest, and it often entails missing school and refraining from computer, television and texting activity. The athlete is re-tested every 7-10 days until such time as their concussion symptom score and neurocognitive function returns to normal.