The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 1.7 million Americans suffer from Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) every year, and that many of these Americans are under the age of 18.
Youth concussions happen often and can have severe effects on children and teenagers if not properly treated. Accordingly, many US schools are currently re-evaluating their approach to testing and treating concussions. Now, Plymouth-Whitemarsh Colonial School District in Pennsylvania is joining this movement, by instituting ImPACT concussion assessments.
We recently wrote about a similar program /study being implemented in Florida, called Health IMPACTS, which has gained attention for its Sports Concussion Assessment Tool, made available on iPads for easy use. The Colonial School District is using a similar tool is evaluating youth concussions with their ImPACT test.
ImPACT Youth Concussion Testing
ImPACT stands for Immediate Post Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing. The tool is currently used by doctors, psychologists, and athletic trainers; as well as by the National Football League, National Hockey League, and Major League Baseball.
What happens with ImPACT is that all student athletes take a computerized exam before the sports season begins. The exam will test the student’s normal brain function, tracking information on his or her memory, speed, concentration, and reaction time.
The school district describes the non-invasive, 15-20 minute physical of the brain, set-up in “video-game” format. If a student is suspected have sustained a concussion, he or she then takes the test a second time and a medical professional will compare the results. The test data will help doctors and coaches to determine when a student should return to play.
Youth Concussion Warning Signs
While often mild, non-life-threatening injuries, second impact youth concussions can have serious effects. There are a number of warning signs which can indicate that a student is experiencing the effects of a concussion.
Emotional Abnormalities. The youth is experiencing irritability, sadness, or mood swings. Also, the student is uncharacteristically nervous or anxious.
Lethargy. Sudden changes in the student’s sleep habits. Either sleeping too little, too much, or not sleeping at all. Any sleep abnormalities may be concussive symptoms.
Cognitive Functioning. The student is experiencing difficulty concentrating, developing clear thoughts, or retaining new information, there may be cause to visit a doctor.
Physical Pain or Injury. The student is experiencing vision impairment, such as blurry or fuzzy sight. Also, issues of balance and dizziness, or nausea and vomiting. Lastly, headaches are a primary sign that a concussion has occurred.
One of the best ways to treat a youth concussion is rest. If a student has sustained a concussion, he or she should not return to athletics for a time, should not exercise or watch too much television. Sleeping at night and resting during the day are good ways to make a smooth recovery following a youth concussion injury.