By Rebecca Mayer Knutsen
In the quest to conquer concussion diagnosis and treatment, healthcare professionals have added a test that is similar to a video game to their toolbox. According to Dr. Bob Walker of the pediatric concussion management program at South Shore Hospital, ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) is an extra measuring tool that picks up abnormalities the clinical assessment may not.
A type of traumatic brain injury caused by a forceful bump, blow or jolt, concussion can alter an athlete’s behavior, thinking or physical functioning. The injury can occur in any sport or recreation activity and children can become impaired in different ways.
“Concussion awareness has come a long way in the last few years,” states Jeannine Donato, RN, founder of A Head of the Game in Weymouth.
Serving as one component of the evaluation, the 30-minute computerized neurocognitive test measures a child’s verbal memory, visual memory, visual motor speed and reaction time. “The test will capture the small gap of children who can tolerate exercise but aren’t completely healed,” explains Walker.
Donato refers to baseline testing with ImPACT as a “pre-season physical of the brain.” If an injury occurs, then the test is repeated and scores are compared to determine how bad the concussion is, what part of the brain is affected, and when it’s safe to return to play. Healthcare professionals want to avoid putting the athlete at risk for a second injury. “My rule is if I can think of a reason for a brain injured child not to return to play, then he can’t,” relays Walker. For a full list of local medical offices that offer ImPACT testing, CLICK HERE.