Concussion management evolves in schools with online and i-Pad tests

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – As the school sports season kicks off, so does the growing concern of head injuries.

According to the Sports Concussions Institute, about 1.6 million to 3.8 million concussions happen every year. Although research shows that football is the sport with the highest risk of concussion, five to ten percent of all athletes across all sports will experience a concussion.

Concussion management is evolving to include new technology, like the Cleveland Clinic App for i-Pads called the Cleveland Clinic Concussion System. West Michigan high schools like Northview in Grand Rapids said their concussion management includes technology similar to this app.

Northview High School Athletic Trainer Jesse Brinks told FOX 17 that they use the Pearson online system called Concussion Vital Signs, a baseline neurocognitive test. Brinks said the test is given to all athletes before the start of their season to provide the school with baseline data.

The online test takes about 25 minutes to complete and covers about eight modules, including visual memory and symbol matching tests. Then Brinks said if an athlete suffers a head injury they take this test again towards the end of their recovery. At that point, the athlete must score within five percent of their baseline test before being allowed back into sports play.

"We'll go by the recommendations of the physician, they will check in the athletic training staff daily, we'll check their symptoms, and like I said when they're symptoms lessen and the doctors give us the OK, we'll put them on this,” said Brinks. “And this is kind of the last piece, and we'll also look at the balance testing at that point."

Brinks said at Northview an athlete's balance testing is done with the school's partner, Hulst Jepson Physical Therapy. The testing done there, along with Concussion Vital Signs, are similar to the Cleveland Clinic Concussion System i-Pad app.

"The idea behind the i-Pad app concussion assessment we're working on is to try and get a better picture of, or a better overall assessment of the major symptoms associated with concussion,” said Jay Alberts, Cleveland Clinic researcher.

Brinks said Northview has used this online program for about five years, and finds it helpful to assess an athlete's recovery across disciplines.

"Balance is one of the last thing's to come around, and then obviously you can tell with (the Concussion Vital Signs test) there's a number of pieces that play, as far as concentration, memory, reaction time, things like that, that are huge as far as brain functioning,” said Brinks.

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