The Center Foundation and 509J School District are partnering to implement the ImPACT Concussion Management program for high school athletes at Madras High School, working closely with Steve Johnson, Madras High School Athletic Director.
Madras will be the seventh Central Oregon high school to receive ImPACT through The Center Foundation.
“ImPACT Concussion Management is something our board has been making available to high school and athletes in Central Oregon for the past six years thanks to Dr. Mark Belza’s passion for it,” says Carol Stiles, executive director of The Center Foundation. “Research is showing about ten-percent of high school athletes who play sports wind up with concussions in a given year.
That’s a lot of kids. What we know from research is that the brain of a young person heals slower than that of an adult. If a kid goes back to play without that first concussion being properly healed and then sustains a second (called second impact concussion syndrome) it just compounds the issue. ImPACT gives us the tool to be able to say that brain is not yet ready to go back or it is.”
The program was developed six years ago in this community and has since expanded into outlying areas including Crook County, La Pine and Sisters, soon to be in Culver. Future plans include expansion in Lakeview, Klamath Falls, Burns and The Dalles. “Our objective here is really to manage concussions, which in ten to twenty-percent of high school athletes is significant,” says Mark G. Belza, MD, a neurosurgeon at The Center and advocate of ImPACT.
“My concern has always been that there is a better way of screening concussions than to look at a kid on the sideline and even in the office and be able to determine what impact the concussion has had on the athlete. ImPACT (Immediate Post Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing which was developed by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center sports medicine department) is a computerized test that allows for developing a baseline in each individual athlete. It can be used in ‘batch’ testing which means that the testing can all occur in the high school computer labs and we can get everyone’s base line test. Once that has been established, if an athlete develops a concussion during the course of their athletic activities and the concussion is recognized, then we can run them through the ImPACT program which allows us to glean further insight as to how their concussion is recovering and when it is fully recovered.”
Belza goes on to say recovery may be anywhere from six minutes after a ding to three to six months.
“The concerns that patients, coaches and athletes have had is that this test will keep the athlete out of play unduly,” he shares. “On the contrary, what we can do is actually get them back into play sooner at the moment they have reached their healthy base line without risk. The other issue is that as we introduce these programs into communities it changes the standard of care for the treatment of concussions. With the program implemented in the schools, it changes the medical legal level of involvement for everyone – the school district as well as the physicians and the coaches in terms of liability issues. It actually creates a safer environment for all people involved, not only from medical legal standpoint but also from the standpoint of the kid’s health. So it’s important to understand that this program is really intended to make communities more aware of the impact concussions have on individuals and the impact they have on families, the school districts and the nation as a whole.”
ImPACT has already been instituted in at least 16 NFL programs throughout the country and all collegiate athletics have been involved with the program as well.
“The Cow Creek Umpqua Indian Foundation has given us a grant of $2500 which, along with The Center Foundation’s support enables us to put ImPACT in place in Madras for a year,” says Stiles. “The grant purchases the license for the school, helps pay for one of our athletic trainers to do some training, covers the cost of the post concussion training and it pays for the consultation of ImPACT trained neuropsycologists. After that, the community will have to find other ways to sustain it. We’re looking for other grants so we can make ImPACT available to any high school who wants to have it.”
In a nutshell, ImPACT is like a physical of the brain, addressing things like coordination, language skills and response time from which a baseline is determined. “We’ll get 20 kids in the computer lab, give them the baseline which, by the way, comes in numerous other languages, restore the baseline and then if a kid sustains a concussion, there are protocols in place,” says Stiles.
“Within a certain number of hours, they are given another ImPACT test which is compared to the baseline and read by professionals who are trained by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. They’re able to tell whether or not the brain is healed enough for that kid to safely return to play.”
The University of Pittsburgh originally developed a snapshot of how a child’s brain functions normally in the late nineties. The Center Foundation got involved in 2001 when their youngsters became part of the research in terms of data gathering. “We were a Beta site for UPMC to validate the ImPACT test to help them gather the normative data on high school kids and also to see how the system works,” says Stiles.
The Center Foundation provides sports medicine services, brain and spinal cord injury prevention and scholarship programs to Central Oregon youth. Madras will be the seventh Central Oregon high school to receive ImPACT through The Center Foundation. Ed Wettig, president of The Center Foundation board says, “We are very pleased to be able to extend this critical program to more and more high school athletes in Central Oregon. If the program can prevent even one second-impact syndrome, then we feel it is a success.”