Blows to the head no joking matter

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:33 AM ET

It used to be that a player who was hit in the head merely "had his bell rung."

Pour a little water over his head, put some ice on his neck, hit him with smelling salts, ask him his name and if he got it right, he would be sent right back out on the field.

Times have changed. Now when a player sustains a shot to the head, most trainers and physiotherapists recognize the dangers of possible concussion and do what they can to diagnose and treat the injury. Concussions have stopped careers before they started and ended careers prematurely.

A company that focuses on concussion management is hoping to do a lot more to aid physicians in the treatment and diagnoses of concussion.

ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Test) is an American-based company that's opened its first Canadian branch in London.

Among its clients are NFL teams, NHL teams and minor sports teams.

ImPACT in Canada uses web-based testing to help sports-medicine clinicians evaluate recovery following concussions.

"I've been using ImPACT for four or five years now," said Dr. Lisa Fischer, primary care sports medicine director at the Fowler Kennedy Sport Medicine Clinic in London.

Fischer is also past president of the Canadian Academy of Sports Medicine. "It's changed the way I've handled concussions because it picks up subtleties in cognitive function. The old way of managing concussions was totally based on symptoms. Now we have more of an objective tool. We can say even though your symptoms are gone, you're still not back to normal."

The process is simple. When a client decides to work with ImPACT, athletes complete an on-line test that includes neuropsychological testing, a concussion history form and seven cognitive tests.

Should a player suffer a concussion, that baseline testing will give the treating physician a starting point in recognizing how serious the concussion is. Every year a new baseline test is completed forming a history of the affect, if any, contact sports has on an individual.

"That's the important thing," said John Chehade, general manager of sales and marketing for ImPACT in London. "Once they have their original data and players get hurt, they are directed to a doctor who can compare baseline scores."

Chehade is a former Western Mustang football player. He knows about concussions, about players hiding symptoms and how many times a player who suffered a concussion returns to play too soon putting him in further jeopardy.

Chehade played the game hard and admits to doing a lot of things "head first." As a competitive athlete, he's seen the problems caused by concussion. When Chehade graduated from Western, he was drawn to ImPACT because he felt not only was this program a good one, regardless of sales, it would also draw more public awareness of the dangers of concussion injury.

"This program should be used by any child playing contact sport because it's all about preventing recurring concussions," said Chehade. "If you have one concussion, you are more susceptible to a second concussion and then a third concussion. After a physician has examined you, he'll have the baseline test to compare how severe the concussion is and only a physician can clear you to go back to play."

Chehade says the NFL and NHL use ImPACT. The Ontario Hockey League and Western Hockey League use ImPACT as well. Even though those major organizations have doctors and trainers around the team who are familiar with concussions, they feel its important to have the type of information ImPact provides. But it's especially important to have this information at the high school, minor hockey and competitive hockey level, Chehade says.

"You go to high school sports, you don't have trainers there involved with concussions or a lot of people who know how to deal with concussions," said Chehade.

For $25, an athlete takes an online test that takes 25 minutes to complete. The tests include memory, reaction time, focus and processing speed. After a concussion, the player is examined by a physician and retested. The online site is privacy guaranteed.

ImPACT has been doing concussion studies for 15 years.

"I don't want to scare the parents. But concussion is a brain injury," said Chehade. "Sometimes people take an ankle injury more seriously than they do a concussion. It's not something to fool around with."

Fischer is also past president of the Canadian Academy of Sports Medicine. "It's changed the way I've handled concussions because it picks up subtleties in cognitive function. The old way of managing concussions was totally based on symptoms. Now we have more of an objective tool. We can say even though your symptoms are gone, you're still not back to normal."

The process is simple. When a client decides to work with ImPACT, athletes complete an on-line test that includes neuropsychological testing, a concussion history form and seven cognitive tests.

Should a player suffer a concussion, baseline testing will give the treating physician a starting point in recognizing how serious the concussion is. Every year a new baseline test is done, forming a history of the affect, if any, contact sports has on an individual.

"That's the important thing," said John Chehade, general manager of sales and marketing for ImPACT in London. "Once they have their original data and players get hurt, they're directed to a doctor who can compare baseline scores."

Chehade is a former Western Mustang football player. He knows concussions, players hiding symptoms and when a player who suffered a concussion returns too soon, placing him in more jeopardy.

Chehade played and admits doing a lot of things "head first." As an athlete, he's seen the problems. When he graduated, he was drawn to ImPACT because he felt not only was this program good, regardless of sales, it would also draw more public awareness to the dangers of concussions.

"This program should be used by any child playing contact sport because it's all about preventing recurring concussions," he said. "If you have one concussion, you are more susceptible to a second and then a third. After a physician has examined you, he'll have the baseline test to compare how severe the concussion is and only a physician can clear you to go back to play."

Chehade says the NFL and NHL use ImPACT. The OHL and WHL use it as well. Even though those major organizations have doctors and trainers who are familiar with concussions, they feel its important to have the type of information ImPact provides. But it's especially important to have this information at the high school, minor hockey and competitive hockey level.

"You go to high school sports, you don't have trainers there . . . or a lot of people who know how to deal with concussions," he said.

For $25, an athlete takes an online test that takes 25 minutes. Tests include memory, reaction time, focus and processing speed. After a concussion, the player is examined by a physician and retested. The online site is guaranteed to be private information.

ImPACT has been in business 15 years.

"I don't want to scare parents, but concussion is a brain injury," Chehade said. "Sometimes people take an ankle injury more seriously than they do a concussion. It's not something to fool around with."


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