Thursday, June 28, 2012
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — More than 40,000 student athletes in Arizona have taken advantage of computerized baseline concussion evaluations offered by Mayo Clinic, in the program's first year. That amounts to nearly 40 percent of the state's roughly 100,000 high school athletes. Baseline concussion evaluations measure how the brain is working before injury, and are mandatory tests for professional and college athletes.
Mayo covers the cost of the cognitive evaluations for all high school and junior high school-aged interscholastic and club athletes in the state. The program was made possible through the support of benefactors and Mayo Clinic.
The test takes 8–15 minutes to complete, and athletes or their parents can share the results with health care providers of their choice. After a concussion, the test can be repeated to determine if there has been a change in the cognitive capabilities of the athlete and, once symptoms have resolved, the test can be repeated to determine whether the athlete has returned to pre-injury baseline. The results of this test, combined with a thorough neurological evaluation, ensure that the health care provider can make an informed and objective determination on when and whether the athlete can safely resume normal activities — and in the case of student athletes, when they can return to their sport.
"The diagnosis of concussion, assessment of its severity and knowing when an athlete can return to physical activity, competition, work or school is not always clear," says Mayo neurologist David Dodick, M.D., at Mayo Clinic in Arizona and president of the American Headache Society. "Having a baseline concussion assessment for each athlete will assist in a physician's ability to identify and quantify a change in brain function, and determine if and when the athlete has returned to his or her baseline."
After a concussion, if an athlete continues to play or returns to play too early, there is a significant risk of experiencing another concussion. Dr. Dodick adds.
"Repeat concussions may take longer to resolve and come with a risk of permanent neurological damage or, rarely, death," he says. Children, adolescents and female athletes appear to be at a higher risk for concussions, and may also take longer to recover.
While the importance of baseline testing is clear, the results should be used with a comprehensive neurological evaluation. Although the majority of concussions resolve relatively quickly, some athletes may experience symptoms that may persist for months or longer. The medical care and rehabilitation of these athletes is best achieved by a multidisciplinary team of health professionals with expertise in the evaluation and management of concussions.
Providing this baseline assessment also highlights the importance of safeguarding the brain health of young athletes.
"We are pleased that so many parents, coaches, trainers and students have seen the importance of baseline testing and have opted for this free testing," Dr. Dodick says. "But there is still a long way to go; hopefully, this initiative will be a significant step toward having all youth and adults throughout our state who are involved in competitive or recreational sporting activities establish a baseline."
The baseline concussion testing initiative began soon after the passage of Arizona Senate Bill 1521, which requires that high school athletes who have sustained a concussion be ineligible to return to play until a licensed health care provider has cleared them to return. The law also requires schools to educate coaches, students and parents about the dangers of concussions.
For more information, or to obtain access to take the computerized concussion test, student athletes, parents, coaches, athletic trainers and school athletic directors in Arizona can email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit online.
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