Panama City - Childhood sports are a fantastic way for kids to learn teamwork and dedication. But stepping onto the field comes with risks. Now there is a test athletes can take before the season starts to help them recover in the event of a concussion, it's called ImPACT 101, a neuro-cognitive test.
Even E.R. doctors will tell you emergency room care for concussions doesn't cut it. When a child comes in with a head injury, the E.R. will do an MRI or a CAT scan. But the only way to accurately detect a concussion is by testing what the brain can do before and after injury.
TJ Hart is an energetic 11-year-old who loves sports, wrestling and football are his favorite. But a tackle in October resulted in a head injury that worried his dad, who is himself an E.R. doctor. "He just wasn't recovering as quick as we thought he should," said Dr. Paul Hart.
They were referred to Dr. Eddie Zant. He had TJ take the 20 minute neuro-cognitive ImPACT test which measures brain function. "It's not a complicated test but it sure puts the brain to work. We can tell right off the bat if that brain is injured or not impaired," said Dr. Eddie Zant of Concussion Specialists, Inc. in Destin and Fort Walton Beach.
Because a concussion is not a structural problem it won't show up with typical emergency room testing, something Dr. Hart knows firsthand. "The emergency department is pretty much completely inadequate for ongoing treatment or diagnosis of concussion. We don't do ImPACT testing, we don't have time," he said.
TJ was back in March after a second concussion, this one during an wrestling match. "With my wrestling one, since I felt the pain of my first concussion, when that happened I knew I probably had another one," said TJ.
Detecting a concussion is crucial to preventing future injury. "If a student athlete has a concussion and returns to play before the first concussion heals and gets hit again, it doesn't have ot be a significant hit, they can suffer Sudden Impact Syndrome. The brain will actually herniate and there is 50% mortality rate right on the playing field," said Dr. Zant.
It's a risk local school districts are taking seriously. In fact nearly every district in Northwest Florida is using the test to some extent, some with their football players, others with all student athletes.
Meanwhile TJ is fully recovered and back to his normal self. His parents only wish he had taken the ImPACT test as a baseline before his concussions.