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The Orthopedic Hospital Helps High School Athletes and Coaches Play It Safe through Concussion Program

TOH, Fort Wayne Orthopedics and Fort Wayne Med Ed collaborate to provide ImPACT™ assessment

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2011) – With concussions receiving national attention as a serious health problem for athletes, the sports medicine program of The Orthopedic Hospital of Lutheran Health Network and Fort Wayne Orthopedics has collaborated with the Fort Wayne Medical Education Program to offer the latest in assessment and concussion care utilizing ImPACT testing. Multiple area high schools that already participate in the Sports Medicine program have begun this innovative supplemental program to assist physicians and athletic trainers in evaluating and treating head injuries for student-athletes.

ImPACT is the acronym for Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing, and it helps diagnose and manage concussions by establishing a baseline of the brain for potential future use. The 20-minute computerized neurocognitive assessment, a physical for the brain, is given to high-contact athletes prior to a sport season. ImPACT tracks information such as attention span, memory, nonverbal problem solving, reaction time, speed and concentration; however, it is not an IQ test.

If a concussion is suspected, the student-athlete will be advised to take a post-injury test. Both preseason and post-injury test data are analyzed by an ImPACT-trained physician or neuropsychologist to help evaluate cognitive symptoms caused by the injury and to help develop a treatment plan.

“Current IHSAA guidelines state that athletes suspected of having concussions are removed from their sport and will not be allowed to return to practice or play without written medical clearance from a physician,” said Greg Sassmannshausen, MD, of FWO, the only orthopedic surgeon in the region trained for the ImPACT concussion program. “The safety of every athlete is our top priority. ImPACT is an additional tool that has been added to our current concussion protocol that allows us to better manage concussions and prevent potential brain damage that can occur with multiple concussions.

The software helps the doctors make sure student-athletes do not return to play before they are completely ready,” Dr. Sassmannshausen added.

Only physicians or neuropsychologists with ImPACT training can interpret baseline and subsequent tests to ensure accuracy. As a result, a team of doctors from multiple disciplines including orthopedics, family practice and neuropsychology work closely on each student-concussion case.

State law changed July 1, 2011, so now a physician must provide written permission for student athletes to return to play rather than athletic trainers making that determination.

“The great thing about this process is baseline and post-injury testing may actually return athletes more quickly to practice and games,” said Heidi Musgrave, PhD, neuropsychologist for FWMEP. “Previously, return to play was based on subjective clinical observations. Now the process is tailored for each athlete based on their individual case rather than a set timeframe, enabling physicians to make informed decisions based on objective data.”

This is the first time locally that the ImPACT program is available at the high school level. The Fort Wayne Komets professional hockey team, Fort Wayne Mad Ants professional basketball team and the University of Saint Francis football team began using ImPACT last season and are continuing with it again this year. The ImPACT program was designed in the 1990s by Mark Lovell, PhD and Michael Collins, PhD, both neuropsychologists with University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

TOH and FWO Sports Medicine participating area high schools include:

Bishop Dwenger High School
Canterbury School
Carroll High School
Central Noble High School
Churubusco High School
Columbia City High School
DeKalb High School
Homestead High School
South Side High School

What is a concussion?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines a concussion as a brain injury caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or body. Even a mild bump to the head can be serious.

Signs and symptoms of a concussion may appear immediately or not until days after the injury occurred.

More information regarding ImPACT may be found at www.impacttest.com. More information about the sports medicine program offered by The Orthopedic Hospital and Fort Wayne Orthopedics can be found at www.theorthohospital.com.

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