The Sports Concussion Program at Slocum Center for Orthopedics & Sports Medicine is a credentialed ImPACT consultant (CIC) for the ImPACT program. This certification is obtained by fulfilling the requirements established by the University of Pittsburgh Medicine Center’s Sports Concussion Program.
What Is ImPACT?
ImPACT is currently the most widely utilized computerized concussion management program in the world and has been implemented effectively for high school, collegiate, and professional athletes.
This program was developed through research by neuropsychologists, neurologists, and physicians at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC).
ImPACT stands for Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Test. It is a sophisticated software program developed to help sports medicine clinicians evaluate recovery following a concussion. ImPACT is a computer test that evaluates multiple aspects of neurocognitive functioning, including memory, brain processing speed, reaction time, and post-concussion symptoms.
Athletes, especially those who participate in contact sports, should take a “baseline” test prior to the start of their athletic season. The baseline test takes approximately 30 minutes and can be done through the Internet. Taking a baseline is like “giving your brain a physical” and establishes a normal level of performance.
After an athlete suffers a concussion, we recommend a medical evaluation followed by a post-concussion ImPACT test. Post-concussion testing should be taken within 48 to 72 hours after the injury. Diagnostic testing, such as a MRI or a CT scan, may be ordered to rule out structure injury to the skull or brain. In spite of the fact that these tests are usually normal, a serious concussion may still have occurred.
If an athlete has not taken the baseline test, ImPACT Inc. has developed norms that can be used to evaluate the recovery process of a concussed athlete. While these norms can be used to monitor recovery, they do not replace the value of the athlete being compared to a baseline test.
ImPACT assists in:
- Protecting the student athlete
- Determining safe return to sport
- Preventing the cumulative effects of repeated concussions
- Providing objective data to help assess an athletes’ recovery
- The baseline test is a pre-injury measurement of an athlete's cognitive function. Should an athlete sustain a concussion, post-injury tests can be compared to baseline data and provide valuable information that aids in the return-to-sport decision.
- Baseline tests are recommended for any athlete, age 13 and up, and especially for those who participate in contact sports.
- If a concussion occurs, a post-concussion test would be administered 48 to 72 hours after the injury and interpreted by a medical physician.
- These results are then compared with the baseline data to assist in determining the degree of recovery. Additional post-injury tests may be required until complete recovery has occurred.
- The test is Internet-based and should be taken in a physician’s office.
What if I Have a Concussion but Did Not Take a Baseline Test?
ImPACT has established normative data that is age and gender specific. This data can be used to assist in recovery assessment in the absence of a baseline test.
How Does an Athlete Safely Return to Activity After a Concussion?
At Slocum's Sports Concussion Program, we follow an individualized Return to Activity Plan. This plan is based upon the most recent concussion research and is only begun when an athlete’s symptoms have resolved and neuropsychological tests have returned to normal.
No Athlete Should Return to Activity When Still Suffering Symptoms of a Concussion
The plan outlined below should only be carried out under the supervision of a physician knowledgeable in concussion management and only initiated following the resolution of all concussion-related symptoms.
Return to Activity Plan
Ideally, the Return to Activity Plan is coordinated between your physician and your school’s certified athletic trainer. In schools without athletic trainers, we will work closely with parents, coaches, and teachers.
In order to begin the Return to Activity Plan, you must not have any post-concussion symptoms and be cleared by your physician. As we discussed, post concussion symptoms include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Easily confused
- Slowed thought processes
- Difficulty with memory
- Lack of energy, fatigue
- Dizziness, poor balance, lightheadedness
- Blurred vision
- Sensitive to light and sound
- Poor sleep
- Mood changes- irritable, anxious, or tearful
Seven Steps to a Safe Return
Step 1: Complete cognitive rest. This may include staying home from school or limiting school hours (and studying) for several days. Activities requiring concentration and attention may worsen symptoms and delay recovery.
Step 2: Return to school full-time.
Step 3: Light exercise. This step cannot begin until you are cleared by your physician for further activity. At this point, you may begin walking or riding an exercise bike. No weight-lifting.
Step 4: Running in the gym or on the field. No helmet or other equipment.
Step 5: Non-contact training drills in full equipment. Weight-training can begin.
Step 6: Full contact practice or training.
Step 7: Play in game. Must be cleared by your physician before returning to play.
You should spend 1 to 2 days at each step before advancing to the next. If post-concussion symptoms occur at any step, you must stop the activity and contact us.
Depending upon the specific type and severity of the symptoms, you may be told to rest for 24 hours and then resume activity one step below when your symptoms occurred.
If symptoms recur a second time, we will likely want to see you back in the office for a follow-up visit.