Recently, on my son’s 12th birthday, I took him to Bucks Fit in Bucks County to take a 20 minute test of his baseline cognitive functioning called the ImPACT test.
What is an ImPACT test? This test is intended to provide an image of the brain in an uninjured state. The results can be used to determine, in a measurable way:
- the affect of an injury to the brain
- establish an appropriate treatment plan
- assist in return to play decisions
On the Saturday morning of the testing, a physical therapy aide asked me to fill out a form with basic background information and then my son was taken into a small office with a computer, given some brief instructions, and left alone for 20 minutes to complete the test. Immediately after he was finished, we received a computerized print out of the results which will also be sent to his pediatrician. The whole process cost me $20 and a half hour of time.
In a previous blog, I told you about the concussion my middle son suffered as a freshman in high school while wrestling. He was 14 then. According to Bill Gregory, owner of Bucks Fit and a driving force in Bucks County to make sure concussions receive the proper care, an ImPACT test at 12 for him would not have been helpful. One of the reasons concussions to children are so concerning is that the brain is undergoing substantial changes in pre-teenage and teenage years. Therefore, Bill Gregory recommends that to get a true baseline for the student athlete, a baseline test should be obtained every year. I have resolved that my son’s birthday will be the marker that reminds me to get him tested again.
If my son suffers the signs or symptoms of a concussion while playing a sport, I am relying upon his coaches to understand those signs and symptoms and to pull him from play. As parents, especially as our kids get older and are playing on travel teams and teams that practice often, we are often not there. We must rely on coaches to take the correct action to protect our children. That is why the training I discussed in the previous blog (2 Clear and Simple Concussion Rules for Youth Baseball) is so very important. Each league is responsible to make sure that the coaches are properly trained.
If my son does suffer a concussion, I will now be armed with a baseline test to help his doctors to determine when it is safe to return to play and to devise a proper treatment program. Such a program would most likely consist of 3 areas:
- Rest – The injured brain needs rest from stimulus (no TV, video games, cell phones, ipads etc.)
- How to deal with school? As a Bucks County resident, however, we have available a program called “Brain Steps” which we can utilize to act as a liaison between our child’s doctor and school administrators to design a change in the child’s curriculum to minimize the stresses on the child’s brain during recovery.
- Treatment – With a doctor’s prescription, a child can receive a combination of exertional therapy (systematically increasing physical activity in a specifically designed manner measuring response) and vestibular therapy (vision and balance therapy designed to reduce symptoms).
In summary, Little League baseball coaches should be armed by their organization with education to understand the signs and symptoms of a concussion and be given rules that must be followed to eliminate discretion. Likewise, parents must be advised of the rules and educated that tools exist to measure the significance of the concussion and help their child recover so it is safe to return to play.
Tony Baratta is a trial attorney in Huntingdon Valley, PA who represents clients who have been seriously injured. He has coached all three of his sons in Northampton Little League Baseball and is currently on the board of Northampton Little League Baseball as its Safety Director. Tony Baratta is the founding partner at Baratta, Russell & Baratta and is a member of the Pennsylvania Brain Injury Association (BIAPA).