A local program is aiming to help concussion patients from suffering long-term injury. The Concussion Management Program at North Memorial utilizes ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing), a computer test that measures areas of the brain affected by concussions, such as memory and reaction time.
The test helps patients and doctors determine whether the brain is functioning as it was before the injury and whether the patient is ready to go back to the activity that caused the concussion.
Eighteen-year-old Meghan Gallagher suffered a concussion playing soccer in the summer of 2010. Four months later, she suffered a second concussion. Meghan's mom didn't want to take any chances with her daughter's health so she sent Meghan to a neurologist and took her in to take the ImPACT test.
"Having that testing available, even though she was symptom-free, her brain wasn't completely healed," says Mimi Gallagher, Meghan's mother. "So the testing helped us enormously in terms of getting her back in a healthy state."
Ideally, athletes are encouraged to take the test before the season starts to establish a baseline. If an athlete is injured, specialists can chart his recovery by comparing any post-concussion ImPACT tests to the baseline test. Meghan did not take a baseline test. However, her doctor was still able to measure her progress.
At North Memorial, it costs $5 to take the baseline test. It costs $15 to retest if you have a concussion. If you are unable to take the test at one of North Memorial sites, North Memorial staff will bring the computer program to schools to test any number of students. This type of testing is not mandatory among young athletes, but Meghan's mother says it should be.
"If we didn't have that we probably would have gone more on symptoms and when she was less symptomatic we may have allowed her to go back," says Mimi, "possibly furthering injury if she had rehit her head."
This type of testing is used to prevent further injury. The worst that can happen is if a person who still has a concussion reinjures himself, he could be faced with lifelong disability or he could even die.
"Any other body part that’s injured, whether it be casted, splinted, there is an amount of time to let your body heal," says Mimi. "The brain is no different."
January 31, 2012