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New tests lessen ImPACT of concussions

Many local schools already using new protocols for high school athletes

Burn Hills-Ballston Lake football players during a game last year. High school athletes are suject to new rules regarding concussions this year. Spotlight file photo.

Burn Hills-Ballston Lake football players during a game last year. High school athletes are suject to new rules regarding concussions this year. Spotlight file photo.

— Simple questions are posed to the student, like what their name is, what year is it and who is president. Among the red flags on the sidelines after an injury are dilated or uneven pupils, nausea and dizziness. When those are observed, coaches need to call paramedics.

To determine when a student can return to play, coaches, athletic trainers, parents and physicians all play a part on the student’s behalf. Under the new guidelines, students must be released by their own physician as well as the school’s physician after a head injury. And, they must bes ymptom-free for at least 24 hours. The ImPACT tests can help make the determination on whether an athlete should return to the playing field.

Kniezek said an athlete may be free of physical symptoms but still be struggling with something neurocognitively.

“It’s really a short-term, instant gratification kind of thing. It gives us a baseline level of how their brain functions, so that if they do become concussed one of the first things that goes is obviously a lot of the neurocognitive capability,” he said.

McGuire said in BHBL, a post-injury ImPACT test is done before a player is given the OK to return.

“If the test is OK within certain parameters, we go to a three-step process over three (or more) days. First there’s a light workout, then a moderate workout on the second day with a full workout on the third day,” said McGuire.

McGuire also said if a student scores a substantially lower test on the post-injury ImPACT exam, he or she will be sent back to the doctor. McGuire has been with the district for 17 years and said that years ago an athlete who was hit in the head may have been returned to play on the same day. Now, regulations make for a more cautious atmosphere.

“A lot has changed over the years…the kids are bigger, faster and stronger,” added McGuire.

BHBL will be holding a workshop to inform parents about the new guidelines on Tuesday, Aug. 28, at the high school at 5:15 p.m. Ballston Spa will be holding a Meet the Coaches Night on Thursday, Aug. 23, at 6:30 p.m. in the high school auditorium where parents can learn more about the guidelines.

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