Area athletes undergo baseline test for concussions

It has been one year since Governor Bobby Jindal signed "Louisiana's Concussion Bill," making some game-changing requirements for young athletes suspected of having a concussion. Now, a local sports medicine program is taking it one step further.

From the moment the whistle blows, athletes like Washington-Marion High School quarterback, Maurius Rideaux, know it is game time - even if there is pain involved.  "I've always been told that you will get hurt playing football," he said, "I just look at it as a part of the sport."

While hard hits go hand-in-hand with contact sports, it is the impact that is experienced long after the game that has pushed trainers and doctors with Lake Charles Memorial's Sports Medicine Program to make some changes - using a computer system called "imPACT," or Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing.

"We can baseline test the athletes before the season, which gives us a score of where they are with their cognitive and neurological function," said program director, Jamey Rasberry.

All of the fall contact sports athletes in Southwest Louisiana have gone through imPACT testing.  Spring sports are next.  "It just popped up words and we had to find pictures that matched the words and those types of things," said Rideaux.

Athletes with possible concussions will be retested and sidelined until the results match the baseline numbers.  LCMH sports medicine physician, Dr. Brian Harrell, said, "We base their performance upon their baseline performance and see whether or not the symptoms they're illiciting still are part of a concussion or something else."

If an athlete has had a prior concussion, he or she is prone to something called "second impact syndrome" if the return to the field happens too early.  This condition can cause severe brain damage or even death.  "The brain is already damaged, to put it mildly," said Dr. Harrell, "then you just compound the problem."

Rideaux says this testing system is peace of mind for athletes, especially when you are surrounded by a team of tough guys not wanting to come out of the game.  For Rideaux, it is a game he hopes he can keep playing after his high school career ends.  "It is important that we have the concussion test and it does help us to maintain our longevity in the sport," he said.

The imPACT system takes about 20 minutes to complete a test and can be used for athletes ages 10 through adulthood.

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