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ImPACT is new tool in sports medicine

With the 2011-12 school year beginning in just a few weeks, it's time to gear up for Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta fall sports. The sports medicine team at Stevens Community Medical Center is ready.

Dr. Alex Lebrija, director of the sports medicine program at Stevens Community Medical Center, will be on hand at the All Activities Kickoff Monday to explain a new tool available to evaluate concussions in contact sports.

Librija explained that the team implements yearly reviews to look at how to improve their program. With concussions being a hot topic right now, the sports medicine team found the ImPACT test to help them determine if an athlete is ready to return to the game.

SCMC recently acquired the computerized assessment system. Librija and athletic trainer Mary Bellmore just returned from a conference where they learned how to implement the test.

ImPACT stands for Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing. It is a computerized concussion evaluation system used to objectively evaluate the concussed athlete's post-injury condition and track recovery for safe return to play.

The initial test will be taken before contact activity begins in practice. It will provide a baseline for each athlete. If a student suffers a concussion, they will be tested again within 48 to 72 hours to compare results to the original data.

While the test is not mandatory, the sports medicine team hopes to have full participation from athletes in contact sports.

The test measures verbal memory, visual memory, processing speed, and reaction time.

Librija took the test this week.

"You really have to think," he said. "It wasn't simple."

The sports medicine team treated 10 concussions during the last school year. In the past, they have had to rely on what the athletes tell them. As the Tiger football team defensive coordinator, Lebrija knows how difficult it is to guage an athlete's recovery.

"A lot of kids don't want to miss playing," said Lebrija. "Sometimes, they are not telling the truth (about how they feel) so they can play. The test will give us concrete, objective data to look at."

Librija said the test will provide doctors with an important tool for determining if an athlete is ready to return to the game. The team will work with an athlete's family doctor to determine when he or she is ready. It generally takes 10 days to recover from a concussion.

All testing will be done during the first week of practice at no charge to the athlete or the school. The test will be offered to all athletes in contact sports.

This fall, football and volleyball players will be taking ImPACT. Before the winter season, athletes in hockey, wrestling, and basketball will be given the test if they have not already done so. Spring contact sports are baseball and softball.

Once an athlete has completed the test, is is good for two years. They will not have to retake the test for each season.

Parents will need to sign a consent form, which will be handed out at the Kickoff Monday night. Lebrija will be available to answer any questions.