December 31, 2007

Test to Assess Concussion

The NewsHour reported on Nov. 26, 2007 about a test that measures cognitive impairment after concussion, and is more accurate than the more common "how do you feel" assessments that are done before sending athletes back onto the field following concussion.

Betty Ann Bowser reports on "ImPACT, which stands for immediate post-concussion assessment and cognitive testing, a sophisticated computer program that measures function in all four lobes of the brain. It is the first diagnostic tool developed that can map out how a concussion has caused impairment." She interviews Mickey Collins, neuropsychologist and assistant director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, who says that ImPACT "... looks at one's ability to remember information. It looks at one's reaction time. It looks at one's ability to multitask, to do two things at once. It looks at one's ability to really maintain attention and concentration." He also comments:

You can't manage concussion with a cookbook. The minute I hear a clinician say, "You've had a concussion, sit one week out, and you'll be fine," is the minute I realize the clinician has no idea what they're talking about.
One of my favorite Giants, Antonio Pierce, was diagnosed with concussion following a recent game. He played again the next week, but ... was he really ok to play? Here's more about it, according to the Canadian Press (Nov. 15):

"Antonio Pierce vowed to play for the New York Giants against the Detroit Lions despite nagging 'little headaches' from a concussion suffered last weekend.

" 'If I ain't totally broke and I can play and run, I should be out there, and I think I will be,' Pierce said Thursday after missing his second straight day of practice for Sunday's game in Detroit."
[article no longer available online]
I can't find any mention of it since then, and he's played all games, so I guess he's ok ... but after hearing more about concussion from the NewsHour, and knowing what happens to many retired NFL folks ... I worry.

Wayne Chrebet, terrific (retired) receiver for the Jets retired because of postconcussion syndrome two years ago. The Times reported on Dec. 22 that "Mr. Chrebet, 34, has recently acknowledged he has bouts of depression and memory problems so severe that he cannot make the routine drive from his New Jersey home to his Long Island restaurant without a global-positioning system." They refer to an interview with Chrebet published in the Star Ledger in early September:
"Six documented concussions - in all probability, he suffered twice as many in his career - forced Chrebet, the sure-handed and fearless wide receiver, into retirement after the 2005 season. Today, the migraines and darkness still stalk him, sneaking up from behind like a cheap-shotting cornerback."
I'd like to see more care taken to diagnose concussion on the field and more caution when sending folks back in to play. Moral question: should I stop watching football because it's so potentially dangerous to the players' brains? [sigh]

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1 comment:

Andrew Goldsmith said...

Great post on a very important topic. For more articles, videos, scientific literature, and other resources on concussions in football, visit the Links page at the website of the Ralph Wenzel Trust.