One student's success story includes ImPACT

One student's success story includes ImPACT

Under the Friday night lights, a thrilling play ends with a player down. As the injured athlete is carried from the field, the team doctor on the sidelines starts asking questions. One of the first answers will come from a neuropsychological test called Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing or ImPACT.

Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) has partnered with the sports medicine team at Gwinnett Medical Center and the Hospital Sports Medicine Committee to put the technology of the ImPACT program to work for Gwinnett student athletes, ensuring they are properly assessed following an injury and fully recovered from a concussion before returning to their sport. Click here to watch a GCPS TV clip about ImPACT.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a concussion is defined as “a serious brain injury that is caused by a blow to the head or body that causes the brain to move rapidly inside the skull.”

At the beginning of the season, Gwinnett’s student-athletes take the ImPACT test as a baseline of their cognitive performance. Should a student sustain an injury on the field, he will take ImPACT testing on the sideline to compare to the baseline results. Retests are used to measure the student’s progress toward recovery.

To date, more than 2,000 of GCPS’ student-athletes have taken baseline tests through ImPACT, with 80 concussions confirmed through retests during the season. Though football was the first sport to pilot the program, plans are set to include basketball, cheerleading, soccer, and wrestling in the line-up of contact sports offering the baseline screening.

The baseline test takes approximately 20 minutes and can be done through the Internet. When a GCPS student-athlete presents symptoms associated with a concussion, the baseline ImPACT results are analyzed, along with conclusions from a post-concussion ImPACT test, to determine when an athlete has recovered from a concussion and can safely return to sports. Post-concussion testing, which does not take the place of diagnostic tests like an MRI or a CT scan, should be conducted within 48 to 72 hours after the injury.

ImPACT is used to evaluate, document and measure various brain functions, including verbal and visual memory, attention span, brain processing speed, reaction time, and post-concussive symptoms.

“[While] there has been no change in the number of concussions being experienced by student-athletes, more athletes are being treated for concussions due to better awareness and recognition of concussion symptoms by athletes, coaches, athletic trainers, parents and physicians,” says Dr. Mark C. Cullen of Georgia Sports Medicine. “Despite the better recognition of concussion symptoms, many concussions go unrecognized and untreated.”

Mike Emery, director of Athletics, Student Activities, and Community Schools, says involvement in the program is the right thing to do as more students are engaging in the system’s athletic programs.

“The advantage of the program is the proper diagnosis, treatment, and aftercare for students who have suffered a concussion,” Mr. Emery says. “It's not just an advantage on the athletic field, but also in the classroom as well. Students who suffer concussions also may suffer from decreased ability in the classroom if the injury goes untreated. Proper diagnosis means timely treatment and also can allow for accommodations to be made until the student fully recovers.”

Kathryn Wise and son Kadeem, a senior on Berkmar High’s football team,
know the benefits of the ImPACT program firsthand. After witnessing her son’s injury on the football field last year, Mrs. Wise observed some changes that were out of character for Kadeem.

Prior to the beginning of the fall football season, Coach John Thompson coordinated ImPACT testing for every player on the team, including Kadeem.
Mrs. Wise says she first learned about the test after her son was injured in a game. When results of a sideline ImPACT screening showed that Kadeem had a concussion, he was referred to a doctor who worked with the ImPACT program.

“There was something to guide us in better understanding the extent of Kadeem’s injury,” she says. “When he took the test again, his performance showed that his front lobe, or the memory section of his brain, had been affected.”

Berkmar High student Kadeem Wise was recently featured on Atlanta's CBS TV-46
as an ImPACT success story.

Dr. Cullen recommends limiting cognitive and physical activity when recovering from a concussion. In Kadeem’s case, he did not return to the football field for three weeks.

After a schedule that included half-days in school and weekly ImPACT retests to chart his progress, Kadeem recovered and returned to the huddle. While Mrs. Wise is aware of the many precautions— from protective gear to proper technique— that are taken before players reach the field, she understands the important role that parents play in protecting their student-athletes.

“[A parent has] to look for the signs [after an injury], especially if the child’s head is hurting, if he seems very sleepy, or if his attitude is completely different,” says Mrs. Wise. “Pay attention to the symptoms your child has after an injury. That’s the best way to keep him safe.”