Baseline Concussion Testing Hits Youth Sports

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aB Newswire, Friday May 27, 2011

Grade school football players will undergo computerized cognitive baseline testing under a new policy devised by the Franklin Lakes (N.J.) Recreation and Parks Committee and adopted by the Borough Council.

Recreation director John Ciurciu told northjersey.com that 67 players will be tested prior to this football season. Eventually, the program will expand to test all 3,000 children participating in the borough’s sports programs.

Mark Lovell, a physician and chief executive officer of Pittsburgh-based ImPACT Applications Inc. (ImPACT stands for Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing), added that 4,000 youth hockey players in western Pennsylvania have received free baseline testing through the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation.

ImPACT was developed for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and is used predominantly in professional sports, and an increasing number of high schools have adopted the test, as well. Still, cognitive testing in youth sports is still in its infancy nationwide, despite the fact that concussion-related emergency room visits for athletes ages eight to 13 doubled from 1997 to 2007, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The tests take about 30 minutes to complete, and an athlete deemed to have sustained a concussion must pass a retest before returning to the field. As many as 45 retests per season will be allowed per a two-year agreement that will cost the borough $1,000.

Ciurciu, whose brother Vinny suffered two concussions last season playing for the Detroit Lions, sees his department as leading a movement toward safer youth sports. “We have to be prepared, and we have to keep our kids as safe as possible,” he told northjersey.com’s Philip Devencentis. “The test is not the be-all and end-all. But, personally, I feel it’s going to be done by recreation departments everywhere in due time.”

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