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Sports Concussion Program at Texas Health Fort Worth Reaches 15,000 Student Athletes
02/04/2010

FORT WORTH, Texas — Since 2008, more than 15,000 North Texas student athletes from 83 local schools and clubs have received ImPACT™ baseline testing through the Concussion Management Program at Texas Health Sports Medicine.

Of those, approximately one in 30 have returned to be retested after suffering a concussion. The online tests help athletic trainers and physicians determine when it is safe for athletes to return to the field. Sitting out during recovery from a concussion prevents dangerous repeat head injuries that can cause severe, long term brain damage.

“We’ve done a lot of tests on a lot of kids, but when you consider how many student athletes there are in North Texas, 15,000 is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Ken Locker, a certified athletic trainer at Texas Health Sports Medicine.

The question of how long to wait before returning to play is not the only thing parents should be concerned with after a child suffers a concussion, Locker said.

“A period of total rest is recommended — not just from sports, but from classes, studying, video games, even text messaging,” he said.

Almost half of high school football players suffer a concussion each season, and more troubling, 35 percent of players say they had more than one in the same season, raising their risk for long-term brain damage.

The idea of putting more safeguards in place against repeat concussions is gaining steam across the country, from high school to college to professional sports. Washington state passed the nation’s strongest return-to-play statute last year, requiring athletes under 18 with symptoms of a concussion to stay off the field until they have written approval from a licensed physician. Several other states are contemplating similar legislation. The Washington statute is named after Zackery Lystedt, who suffered a life-threatening brain injury when he returned to play in a middle school football game after suffering a concussion.

“Players often return to the field before they should, thinking they just got their “bell rung” and that everything will be fine,” said Dr. Damond Blueitt, a primary care and sports medicine physician on the medical staff at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth. “Unfortunately, like in Zackery’s case, a second injury can be much worse than the first.”

Although many people think of a concussion as someone passing out, a person can have a concussion and never lose consciousness. That’s why it’s important to understand that a concussion is actually a mild traumatic brain injury, Blueitt said. Athletes and their families need to recognize when a mild traumatic brain injury has occurred and wait until healing occurs before allowing the athlete to resume normal activities.

The Concussion Management Program at Texas Health Sports Medicine begins with a computerized baseline test that establishes an athlete’s neurocognitive function. After a concussion, an athlete takes the test again, allowing the computer system to calculate if there’s been a change to his or her cognitive efficiency. Called the ImPACT™ test, the online testing program is used by the majority of teams in the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, as well as college sport programs and more than 10,000 school districts across the nation.

Following a blow to the head, athletes can experience symptoms like “seeing stars” or appearing “foggy.” All these can be signs of a concussion, which are common in contact sports like football. Athletes who participate in basketball, baseball, softball and soccer also can suffer concussions.

A concussion can make an athlete vulnerable to a lethal second-impact, if the brain hasn’t properly healed. The second concussion — even if it’s with less force or impact than the initial head injury — can lead to brain swelling and cause long-term disabilities. In extreme cases, a second injury can be fatal.

More common are the negative cumulative effects of multiple concussions over time, including slight changes in personality and a slip in grades.

For more information on concussions, visit TexasHealth.org/BenHogan or call 817-810-7504.

The signs and symptoms of a concussion can be subtle and may not appear immediately, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Symptoms can last for days, weeks or longer. The two most common concussion symptoms are confusion and amnesia. The amnesia, which may or may not be preceded by a loss of consciousness, almost always involves the loss of memory of the impact that caused the concussion.

Other immediate signs and symptoms of a concussion may include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Slurred speech

Some symptoms of concussions don't appear until hours or days later. They include:

  • Mood and cognitive disturbances
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Sleep disturbances

About Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas
Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas is an 866-bed acute care hospital and recognized clinical program leader, having provided compassionate care to the residents of Dallas and surrounding communities since 1966. U.S. News and World Report has ranked Texas Health Dallas among the nation’s best hospitals in digestive disorders, orthopedics, and neurology and neurosurgery. An affiliate of the faith-based, nonprofit Texas Health Resources system, Texas Health Dallas has approximately 4,000 employees and an active medical staff of more than 1,000 physicians. For more information, call 1-877-THR-WELL, or visit TexasHealth.org/Dallas.

About Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth
Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth is 724-bed, Magnet-designated regional referral center that has served the residents of Tarrant County since 1930. The hospital’s services include cardiovascular services, high-risk and routine obstetrics and gynecology, orthopedics and sports medicine, neonatal intensive care, and trauma/emergency medicine. Texas Health Fort Worth is also home to the 100-bed Texas Health Harris Methodist Heart Center. An affiliate of the faith-based, nonprofit Texas Health Resources system, Texas Health Fort Worth has more than 4,000 employees, 200 volunteers and nearly 1,000 physicians practicing on the medical staff. For more information, call 1-877-THR-WELL, or visit TexasHealth.org/FortWorth.

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