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The Importance of Concussion Testing

Recent epidemiological data reveals that the majority of concussions come from football at 47%, followed by girl's soccer at 8.2% with the most common mechanism being player to player contact. No sport is immune to concussions, and that includes soccer. Concussions can have long term effects whether severe or mild.  And as the research on concussions continue, finding ways to manage and prevent concussions is of the upmost importance. This is why baseline concussion testing is extremely important. 

Concussion injuries are really not the problem. The real problem is in effectively managing it. In my opinion,  this holds especially true for soccer athletes at the high school/club level. While many states have enacted laws in an effort to prevent concussions, many coaches and parents still lack the knowledge necessary to properly help their athletes deal with them safely and effectively. Coaches and parents will either prematurely send their athletes back on the field too soon, or wait far too long.

Baseline concussion testing your soccer athlete in the pre-season is a crucial tool in concussion management. While not a cure by any means, baseline testing provides valuable objective information to the health care professional in knowing the severity of the injury as well making a more informed decision on when the athlete can return to play.  For example,a healthcare practicioner can compare baseline results in the pre-season to another exam taken by the athlete during the season in the event of a concussion. The healthcare practicioner can then look at the objective data and note any differences in memory, concentration, or reaction that would otherwise not be noticed on medical imaging. This helps ensure the athlete's return to play is much safer, ensuring the athlete does not go back to sport while still experienceing concussion symptoms. 

There are a few methods of concussion testing. Here is a description of two:

ImPACT was developed at the University of Pittsburg Medical Center-Center for Sports Medicine. It is a computerized concussion assessment system that evaluates memory, attention, brain processing speed, reaction time, and post concussion symptoms. A majority of colleigate and professional organizations use ImPACT as their means to baseline their athletes in the pre-season. These organizations include MLS, NBA, NFL, and others. 
 
This written and computerized tool is a standardized method of evaluating injured athletes for concussions. It is supported by the IIHF, FIFA, and The Olympics. The SCAT2 application differs from ImPACT in that it examines the physical symptoms of concussions (level of consciousness, balance, motor control) and also includes cognitive assessment. ImPACT on the other hand, focuses primarily on neurocognitive function and return to play guidelines.
 
Resources:
Marar, Mallika, BS McIlvain, Natalie,  JD, PhD Fields, Sarah, Ph D.Comstock, Dawn, "Epidemiology of Concussions Among High School Athletes in 20 Sports"AJSM PreView, published on January 27, 2012
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