SHS athletes to benefit from new program
FARMER’S KORNER – Throughout the spectrum of high school athletics, the potential for getting one’s bell rung exists. Now, thanks to a new program being introduced at Summit High School with the help of Vail-Summit Orthopaedics, athletic trainer Drew Chambers, along with the school’s coaches, will have new resources available for diagnosing a concussion. Developed by the Boulder-based Brain and Behavior Clinic, the Sports Concussion Management Program uses a special set of cognitive tests to more accurately diagnose head injuries. According to Dr. Stephen Schmitz, a clinical neuropsychologist at the Brain and Behavior Clinic, the program is built around a structured series of clinical tests to help evaluate a subjects cognitive skills. The program is already in use at every high school in Jefferson County, Schmitz said. Jefferson County makes up much of the western Denver metro area and provides Summit High School with much of its competition in the form of the Class 4A Jeffco League.
The program is coming to SHS through athletic director Drew Chambers and Dr. Peter Janes of Vail-Summit Orthopaedics. Chambers found out about the program while attending a continuing education class in Denver. “Dr. Schmitz was doing a presentation,” said Chambers. “Once I heard about it, I brought it up to Dr. Janes, and I set up a meeting to get Dr. Schmitz to come up here.”Janes, meanwhile, already knew of the program after seeing a presentation while attending a NHL team physicians meeting in Toronto in September. “We wanted a tool as clinicians to determine when it’s safe for a kid to go back out and play,” said Janes, whose clinic provides the backing for Chambers position at the high school.An athlete with a concussion who is allowed to play can suffer more serious consequences if they suffer another one before the initial injury has fully healed.”The second impact can be very dangerous – it doesn’t have to be near as traumatic,” Janes said.
The program begins with Chambers performing Immediate Post-concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT), a test designed to establish any given athlete’s cognitive baseline.The results of that test are then kept on file in the event that an athlete suffers a severe blow to the head. The second part of the program is the Standardized Assessment of Concussion (SAC), a very specific six-minute test that can be performed on the sideline to determine the severity of a head injury. “If the symptoms (of a concussion) go away in five minutes, it’s usually an indicator that they can go back and play,” Chambers said. “If they have symptoms for more than fifteen minutes, they’re not going back in.” In the days after the initial injury, Chambers will be able to refer back to any given athlete’s ImPACT baseline and determine whether the concussion has fully healed. “We’re trying to avoid second impact syndrome,” Schmitz said. “When that happens it can cause coma and even death. That is very rare, and I want to stress that, but one time is too many.”
Schmitz also emphasized that a large part of the program is devoted to education in the form of teaching coaches, parents and teammates how to see the signs of a possible concussion. The education outreach even extends into local doctor’s offices.The education is important in catching injuries that go unnoticed, such as when a football player suffers a blow to the head while in a large pile. That player may come off the field and seem normal, but may show signs of an injury later, such as amnesia, headaches, nausea or several other symptoms. “You can have all the tools in the world, but if someone doesn’t recognize that their kid might be injured, you’re opening the door for some tragedy,” he said. Chambers expects the program to be implemented within the next few weeks. In that time, he will be working directly with Schmitz to learn the details of ImPACT and SAC testing. Richard Chittick can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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