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Avera Medical Minute: baseline impact testing helps navigate concussion recovery

Published: Aug. 16, 2021 at 9:58 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - As students prepare to head back to school, that means fall sports are right around the corner.

High-impact sports like football, soccer, and volleyball are starting back up with an increased risk for student-athletes to suffer concussions.

Avera medical professionals are working to get to the root cause of concussions and brain injuries and how to properly treat them.

This type of work starts before an athlete even experiences an injury.

Every two years at O’Gorman High School, student-athletes undergo baseline impact tests. The tests are conducted in the student=athlete’s freshman and junior years.

Avera Athletic Trainer for O’Gorman, Tiffany Giese, explains the purpose of this baseline cognitive test is to give health experts a starting point of how an athlete’s healthy brain operated pre-injury.

“They’re testing their reaction times, read colors, count numbers, and it’s a special test that tests all the essential functions of their brain, essentially,” she said. “So if they were to get hit during their sport and their brain isn’t functioning as well, we’d be able to see and compare their baseline to their injured brain.”

This type of concussion testing is important as more becomes known about the long-term impact of brain injuries.

“People in their 30s and 40s are having brain issues and having seizures and mental health issues that happen because when they were 15, they got a big concussion. So in order to prevent that, we’re doing all these measures to keep the kids healthy,” said Giese.

Avera Orthopedic Sports Medicine Physician Jonathan Buchanan treats patients who’ve experienced concussions.

He says there are very important steps to take when it comes to diagnosing, treating, and preventing concussions from happening.

“So with football season coming up, it’s really important for kids to number one be able to understand what a concussion is and be able to report their symptoms.”

Some concussion symptoms include headaches, dizziness, double vision, or mood changes.

“The second thing is because the concussion affects the brain, we’ve got to know what the brain is doing now. So kids need baseline testing. We need to know how well they’re thinking, what their reaction time is, how well they remember things because, after their injury, we got to get them back to that baseline. So until kids get that baseline concussion testing, we don’t know where ground zero is before the injury,” said Dr. Buchanan.

So while the athletes are in their element on the field, the track, or on the court, having a game plan prepared ahead of an injury and a road map of what to do should one happen goes a long way to ensure their brains are well cared for.

“The kids understand too. They know they only have one brain. They’re smart most of them aren’t really willing to risk their 16-year-old brain to play one more play or one more game,” said Giese.

For more information on baseline testing or concussions, visit https://www.avera.org/services/brain-spine-care/concussion-care/.

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