As the 2012 football season draws nearer, the issue of player safety and concussion prevention will once again rise to the top of the national conversation. While others debate about how to cut down on those injuries, New Richmond High School has taken actual steps to prevent them.
Beginning with the 2012 fall sports season, all New Richmond athletes will take a computerized test called imPACT (Immediate Post Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) prior to competing.
“I think the OHSAA (Ohio High School Athletic Association) has really emphasized an awareness on the concussion issue,” New Richmond Athletic Director Doug Foote said. “With things like this there is a trickle down effect from the NFL to colleges and down to the high schools.”
The computerized test characterized by the school as “non-invasive” is set up in a video game format that takes anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes to complete. The program is designed to test each individuals memory, reaction time, speed and concentration.
“It’s an easy and cost-efficient way (to test the athletes),” Foote said. “We went through Wellington, who (assigns) our training staff, and we believe it’s a good indicator.
“The test will come up with different tests for memory and recall. (For example), there will be three different colors and when they go off the screen, (the athletes) will have to click on the colors in the order they saw them. There are similar things with numbers or squiggly marks to make them recall and focus.”
Megan Barhorst, a Wellington Orthopaedic trainer in her fourth year at New Richmond, will administer the tests to the athletes.
“We had four concussions all of last year,” Barhorst said in a statement released by the school “That is not bad at all for us, but what we are trying to avoid are concussions slipping by and us not noticing them.”
Foote said that having concussions slip by the training staff would not be an option because athletes competing in all sports will be tested, even if concussions and head injuries are not common in a particular extracurricular.
“We’re testing all athletes regardless of their sport,” Foote said, “even if you’re playing tennis or cheerleading, you will be tested.”
That is, of course, if the athletes parents or guardians will sign a permission form saying that their kids can take the test. If they do not have the signed permission form, Foote said that they are not able to force them to take the test.
New Richmond is on the cutting edge it would seem in getting ahead of the curve on concussion prevention.
Anderson, who also has their trainers assigned to them through Wellington, is the only other school that Foote is aware of doing similar testing, although he said he did not research what other schools were doing.
Because of the time commitment required to test such a large number of athletes, New Richmond will test the incoming freshman in 2012 and then again in 2014 when they are juniors.
However, if there is the any kind of head injury, the athlete will be administered the test right away.
“We will test them right away,” Foote said. “If we suspect anything, we’re testing them right now. With so many athletes, it’s hard to test every year, but if there’s an issue we will test them right away.”