New Impact Test helps doctors in Pinellas County decide if athletes should keep playing or sit out

Test tells when to return from a concussion

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Tracy Johnston and Laterian Latimer are the quarterback and running back for Lakewood High School in St. Petersburg.  They have more in common then just a love for football.  Laterian says, "When I got my concussion, I was recovering a fumble and my head got hit by both the Astroturf and another helmet. I  blacked out for two minutes."

Tracy has a similar experience. "I couldn't really get up. They had to help me up and over to the sideline.  I kept asking everyone if the lights were bright."

Both say despite a head injury, they would have played the very next game if not for their failing scores on this "impact" test.

Trainer Erika Miller gives them the test. "We give a baseline test before their season starts and then afterwards if they sustain a concussion they take a post test.  When we look at the post test we are looking to see if they can answer the questions with the same speed and accuracy. So they'll see words and they have to remember the words.  They'll see design patterns. There's one that looks at how fast they can hit two different keys."

A graph shows deficits that indicate their brain is still injured.  Based on the test, both football players sat out additional games

Dr. Adam Di Dio is a neurologist for St. Anthony's Hospital.  "If someone sustains even a mild concussion and does not allow proper amount of time for the brain to heal, the changes in the cerebral blood flow can be so impaired even a minor second head injury could lead to catastrophic swelling  of the brain which is almost always fatal."

While that is rare, he says it does happen and that's why the impact test should be given to all athletes who play contact or semi-contact sports. Marisa suffered a concussion after being hit in her face with a volleyball. She says, "I had to sit out for a month or two. I was basically out for the rest of the season."

So far, almost 2,000 student-athletes in Pinellas County have been given the base line testing. 

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