Concussions are one of the leading factors of injuries in high school sports. With concussions being harder to diagnose than other injuries, Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital is doing everything it can to change that. The hospital has started a concussion screening test that helps provide a baseline for doctors.
Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital uses the software ImPACT to test each athlete. ImPACT is a 25-minute computerized, online test for ages 12 to 59 that helps determine the baseline for doctors. At Elkin, the test is given to most every sport but mainly football and soccer athletes are tested due to the amount of contact involved in each sport.
“This program absolutely helps, and it’s extremely important. If you’ve seen some of the stories in the news recently, particularly with the NFL, there are traumatic brain injuries that went miss-diagnosed and these players are having to go through traumatic things because they were allowed to play with a concussion,” said Laura Oakes, director of Marketing and Medical Staff Development at Hugh Chatham.
“It’s really important, especially with kids this age because their brains are still developing. We’ve had kids that have had to go through the concussion protocol and they have had significant degrees of injury. I think Elkin has been happy with the tests.”
The baseline screening is a neuropsychological test designed to assist in determining whether an athlete has obtained a concussion or has sufficiently recovered from a concussion and can safely return to active participation. The athletes at Elkin High School took their baseline testings last week and the process included a computer test where the participants had to memorize various letters and shapes in order to determine cognitive functions.
“This test gives a better indication of whether or not the athlete is ready to go back and play,” said Oakes. “If the players return to play too soon, then they are at risk for another concussion.”
The signs of a concussion can range depending on the severity. Most signs are headache or “pressure” in the head, nausea or vomiting, balance problems or dizziness, or double or blurry vision, bothered by light or noise, feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy, or groggy, confusion, or concentration or memory problems, or just not “feeling right,” or “feeling down.” If the athlete in question is determined to have a concussion, there are a few steps that come next.
“Twenty-four hours after their injury, but less than 72 hours, they need to go to one of our urgent cares and they will take a post-injury screening on the computer,” said Oakes. “Typically they then follow up with neurology.”
Hugh Chatham is the only facility in the region that offers this level of concussion screening. The screening not only helps the doctors, but it also helps the athletes, coaches and parents when knowing the severity of the concussion.