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New test makes sure athletes are ready to return post-concussion

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(WMC-TV) – Head injuries are a huge threat to athletes. But a new test offered to athletes before their season starts can help make sure they are truly ready to join the game again should they suffer a concussion.

Anyone who has ever played a sport, or been the parent of a player, knows you do not have to be an Olympian to be at risk.

Doctors treat almost half of a million sports-related head injuries or concussions each year.

Almost 65,000 occur while cycling, 36,000 from football, and another 25,000 stem from the baseball diamond.

Spencer Gramling, 14, plays basketball at Greene County Tech in Paragould, Arkansas. But before he hits the hardwood again this fall, he is taking a test to help him should he ever get a concussion.

The software being used to test athletes is called "IMPACT". It tests students on their neuro-cognitive ability, reaction time, memory, and concentration before the season starts.

Some programs also physically test to check balance.

The results form a baseline score. It is easier to measure healing after a concussion if an athlete's score is on record.

After a head injury, athletes are retested and sidelined until their results match their baseline numbers.

Without the baseline measurement, recovery is a guessing game.

"Concussion affects everything going on with the mind, focus, concentration, memory, and as we see with the balance, the motor-processes," said Tom Wahl, Hawaii's Concussion Management Program.

And it is not just football and basketball players taking the test. Players in all sports are at risk.

That is why athletic trainer Johnny Grooms says they implemented the program at GCT, because it not only helps the kids, but the coaches as well.

"Helps us make return-to-play decisions and ensure the kid's safety from concussions," said Grooms.

It takes about three weeks to recover from a concussion. Getting a baseline measurement takes less than one hour. And doing so can help make sure a kid with a concussion is really ready to be back in the game.

Instructors say it's easy to print off test results so if an athlete is injured they can send baseline measurements to a doctor and let the doctor determine whether the athlete is ready to play.

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