Health System Offers Free Concussion Program to Area Athletes

BRUNSWICK, Georgia: Jan. 8, 2010 – The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that approximately 300,000 concussions occur annually in the United States as a result of participation in sports. A concussion is the result of a blow to the head or neck, which causes the brain to be rocked back and forth inside the skull. This leads to an altered state of consciousness of mental awareness, which can be either temporary or prolonged.

Although football is generally recognized as the sport in which athletes are most at risk for concussions, other sports played locally, such as basketball, softball, soccer, and baseball, have moderate to high incidences of concussion. If allowed to return to playing sports too quickly, athletes who have had a concussion could suffer lifelong, irreparable damage. That is why Southeast Georgia Health System brought the innovative concussion management program, ImPACT, to local schools.

ImPACT allows physicians and certified athletic trainers to evaluate whether an athlete who has suffered a concussion is ready to return to action. The Health System provides this program, free of charge, to student athletes in Glynn and McIntosh counties in football and to athletes in other sports who have suffered a concussion. Utilizing the program for younger athletes helps ensure that life-changing injuries are less likely.

“The Health System was ahead of the curve when they brought the program to our area,” says J. Melvin Deese, M.D., board-certified orthopaedic surgeon with the Health System and medical director of Summit Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Surgery. “We are fortunate to have ImPACT in use at not only the college (College of Coastal Georgia) but at our high schools and middle schools as well.” ImPACT is the same testing program used by most National Football League teams, including the Jacksonville Jaguars, Major League Baseball teams, NBA teams, Olympic organizations, World Cup Soccer, NASCAR, professional hockey, boxing, and rugby teams, as well as many college and high school sports teams.

Beau Sasser Jr., M.D., a fellowship-trained sports medicine and board-certified surgeon with the Health System and Summit, was instrumental in bringing the program to coastal Georgia. “I spent a year working with the Kansas City Chiefs, and that’s how I got associated with ImPACT,” Sasser says. “The NFL really focused on dealing with concussions. Now we are able to use the program on a lower level of athletics to cut down on the number of traumatic injuries that occur.”

The first step is to test each athlete before the season starts. “We give them a baseline test beforehand to evaluate their abilities,” Sasser says. “Then, if they suffer a blow to the head, we can go back and test them again to determine if there are lingering effects from the concussion.”

Because an athlete who suffers one concussion is likely to suffer another at one point during his or her playing career, it is important to ensure that the athlete does not continue to suffer the effects of a concussion when returning to the field. ImPACT provides the Health System’s certified athletic trainers who work in the local schools and attend practice sessions and games, the tools they need if an athlete appears to suffer a concussion. The program employs a series of basic questions to see how an athlete responds both after a concussion and before being cleared to return to the playing field. Having an athlete repeat words in a specific order, remembering those words later, answering simple questions about location and activity, and performing matching exercises helps to determine their readiness to return to play.

“Multiple concussions can lessen the quality of life,” Sasser says. “Now we can assess athletes objectively and determine whether it is safe for them go to back on the field. It’s a great tool to offer.” For more information about Health System programs, visit www.sghs.com. For more information about ImPACT, visit www.impacttest.com.