Head injuries such as concussions are very common in high school sports, especially contact sports like football. Players often do not display typical symptoms of a brain injury in the days immediately following the injury, but now there is technology available that allows a closer look at brain function following a traumatic injury.
In Colorado, high school officials are not in agreement about how best to treat brain injuries among young athletes, prompting debate in a state that has seen three high school student-athletes die from on-the-field brain-related trauma in 16 years. Experts estimate that between 1.6 and 3.8 million sports-related concussions occur each year in the United States.
However, there may be a solution in the midst. A computerized test, called ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing), was developed in 1998 by University of Pittsburgh doctors to assist trainers and physicians in determining when athletes suffering from brain injuries can safely return to play. The program is a 20- to 25-minute computer test that measures a variety of brain functions, including memorization.
Already a majority of NFL teams use ImPACT, as do several teams in the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball. At this time, more than 40 Colorado public schools use the computerized program for brain testing.