Lawrence Hospital Helping Educate Athletes About Concussions

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October 18, 2012 by kujhawk

By Evan Dunbar

Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing – or imPACT testing – is becoming a bigger and bigger tool for high schools in the Lawrence area, to help determine if athletes have concussions.

This is thanks, in part, to Lawrence Memorial Hospital, who donated the tests to the schools.

“It was an initiative through the hospital that the kids in Lawrence that are high school athletes in the schools could have this as a tool for them,” Lawrence Memorial Hospital Physical Therapist Adam Rolf.

Hospital and Schools Team Up

This summer, Lawrence Memorial Hospital began a partnership with area schools to provide baseline testing to athletes at their respective schools.

“We met with the athletic directors, and then they spoke to their powers that be with the school district that approved and allowed us to donate this,” Rolf said.

The imPACT test consists of six modules – word discrimination, design memory, X’s and O’s, symbol matching, color matching and three letter memory. This 20-minute test battery provides doctors a baseline for an athlete’s cognitive functioning; and the best thing about it, Rolf says, is that it is all done online.

“All you need is a computer and an internet connection,” Rolf said. “If you have those things, you can administer the test, which is great.”

Rolf said he went to Lawrence and Free State high school to administer the imPACT test to athletes before the start of the fall sports season.

“It was awesome encouragement by the coaches to make sure that they [the athletes] realized that this was an important thing for them [to take],” Rolf said.

Belinda Rehmer, Communications coordinator at Lawrence Memorial, says the biggest advantage for students who take the test, is that when they come in to see a doctor with concussion-like symptoms and they take the post-concussion test, they have the baseline numbers to compare that with. Students who have not participated in imPACT testing are only getting half of the information.

“That is why we donated this to the schools, we do not want any student to not have the opportunity to take this test,” Rehmer said.

More and More Athletes Being Tested

Between Lawrence, Free State and nearby Eudora high school, the tests have been administered multiple times.

“At this point we have tested about 700 kids between the three schools, and I hope the number continues to grow,” Rolf said. “We will probably do this year, in the calendar year, about 1,500.

The number of schools administering the imPACT test is increasing, Rolf says. Veritas Christian School has just begun testing, and by the end of October, Seabury Academy will have imPACT testing as well.

“It is so great to see this expanding to more and more schools,” Rehmer said. “We hope to expand to Baldwin and more surrounding areas in the future as well.”

Rolf said he hopes to continue to help expanding the reach of imPACT testing and that Lawrence Memorial will continue to donate more tests to kids.

More than Just Football

But the imPACT test is not limited to just contact sports, Rolf says. If you are an athlete in any sport, you are allowed to take the test.

“We don’t exclude and sports, if you are a golfer you can take it as well,” Rolf said. “Who is it for us to say who will get a concussion? We have made the commitment to all of those athletes.”

Rolf says the hospital treated 16 concussion cases in September, and that not all of them were football related and not all of the patients were boys.

“Sometimes you will see them in cheerleading from a fall; you will see them in volleyball and you will see them in soccer a great amount,” Rolf said.

Not only is the test expanding to more schools, but it is also expanding to more sports.

“We will be testing the winter sports,” Rolf said. “So we will obviously be testing wrestling and basketball, those are your main ones for the winter.”

Testing begins in early November for the new round of sports. With the success of the fall testing, this cycle should continue year round.

For full transcript of audio, click here

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