Twelve –year- old Alicia was a gymnast and a cheerleader flyer. Her coach instructed her to do a double twist after being launched by her teammates. She performed the maneuver beautifully but plummeted past the girls at the base and landed on her head. In spite of her persistent headache and dizziness, she was encouraged to continue her acrobatic routines. Four days later, she had to hold onto the school hallway walls to keep her balance. At home, Alicia’s mother noticed that her daughter seemed forgetful and disoriented. After Alicia stored her school books in the microwave, her mother brought her into my pediatric office to be evaluated for a concussion.
I’ve been a pediatrician for over thirty years, but the diagnosis and treatment of mild traumatic brain injury is a new and evolving field. Optimal care involves the educated awareness of the injured child as well as every adult linked to that child’s home, school, health, and sports activities. In our practice, we have taken additional training to care for children with concussions and now provide consultant medical services for concussion care and recovery management (ReBound Concussion Care). I am also a member of the Connecticut Concussion Task Force, dedicated to promoting concussion education throughout the state.
After diagnosing Alicia with a concussion and initiating cognitive rest, I contacted her coach to discuss injury prevention and head trauma precautions. I discovered that many coaches, parents, and peers of middle school athletes were not aware of the dangers of traumatic brain injury. That’s when I launched Head-Zone, www.Head-Zone.com, a community outreach program that offers free seminars and injury prevention clinics as well as easy access to baseline ImPACT screening.
ImPACT is a computerized test that records a child’s baseline memory, reaction time, and eye-hand coordination. After a head injury, the ImPACT test can be repeated during the child’s recovery period to determine when his or her speed and memory skills have returned to their normal baseline. The test is especially helpful in adjusting schoolwork during the recovery period as well as determining when it is safe for the child to return to sports. ImPACT screening is available in many high schools, but not most middle schools.
Alicia had not taken the ImPACT test prior to her injury, but we were able to start with her post-injury exam, compare her scores to a national average, and use serial testing to help guide her recovery period. We helped her safely pace her schoolwork and she was eventually able to return to full academic and sports activities.
As Alicia’s pediatrician, I am happy I have made a difference in her life, and I am excited about helping other children in the community participate safely in sports through HeadZone’s education and injury prevention programs. As medical director of HeadZone, I hope to make a difference for the community by providing concussion education and easy access to ImPACT screening. The staff at HeadZone can bring our ImPACT screening to Wi-Fi enabled team sites. We also offer Walk-In ImPACT screening every Wednesday 3-8 PM at The Sports Center in Shelton, or by appointment (203-903-3353) at HeadZone, 25 Constitution Boulevard South, Shelton, CT.