Florida taking steps to protect the brains of students

We have previously posted on the topic of brain injuries tied to athletes at various levels. With the beginning of school lurking around the corner, high school football practices are starting, and the focus is once again on concussions and what can be done to prevent long-term damage to a player’s brain.

According to head neuropathologist at the VA CTSE Brain Bank at the Bedford Veterans Administration Medical Center in Massachusetts, Dr. Ann McKee, avoiding the dangers of “multiple injuries on top of previously untreated injuries,” is what is most important. In that spirit, South Florida is implementing two lines of defense meant to help keep teen athletes engaged in sports, like football, safe.

First, the body that is responsible for governing sports in the high schools throughout the state, the Florida High School Athletics Association (FHSAA), is rolling out new procedures that make it necessary for a doctor to provide permission to a player before he or she can return to the sport after sustaining a suspected head injury. In addition, the FHSAA is requiring concussion management and recognition training for all football coaches.

Miami-Dade County is going a step further by taking the time to administer a cognitive test before the season starts that can serve as a baseline should a suspected concussion occur. Miami-Dade football players have already been tested and Broward County is planning on doing the same next year.

The web-based test is called Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT). During the 30-minute test, cognitive functions are measured as individuals complete various tasks. It is designed to measure memory recall, attention span, reaction time and non-verbal problem solving. The idea is that if a player is believed to have sustained a head injury, the test can be taken again and the results from the two tests can be compared.

The test costs around $600 a year to administer, which though not a lot of money in the scheme of things, for many schools is too expensive. The cost of the first year of baseline ImPACT testing in Miami-Dade public schools was actually accomplished through the fundraising efforts of a student athlete who himself has sustained multiple concussions. A grant from the University of Pittsburgh will pay for the first year of tests in Broward County.


The Miami Herald: “Schools implement new rules to protect student-athletes from brain injuries,” Lola Duffort, Aug. 14, 2011