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HEADS UP Concussion Program

In partnership with the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation and Community College of Allegheny County, HEADS UP Pittsburgh is a unique and valuable program offered by UPMC Sports Medicine. This collaboration provides community outreach, education, and free neurocognitive baseline concussion testing during the summer months to athletes between the ages of 10 and 14.

Program History

The program began in the summer of 2011, and was initially geared toward youth hockey players in the western Pennsylvania region. Because of its overwhelming success, the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation agreed to offer free baseline concussion testing to all athletes in the region, regardless of sport. In 2013, the Foundation took the proactive step of providing free neck strengthening kits to the first 2,000 athletes signed up for baseline testing.

The newly-formed Concussion Outreach Program at UPMC Sports Medicine recently received generous grants from the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Ladies Hospital Aid Society to fund additional testing for pediatric athletes between the ages of 6 and 9, as well as youth athletes from Pittsburgh Public Schools.

Community Outreach

With the success of the HEADS UP Pittsburgh program, licensed athletic trainers from UPMC Sports Medicine have tested more than 10,000 youth athletes across western Pennsylvania. Our athletic trainers have educated more than 22,000 individuals overall; including parents, athletes, coaches, referees, and professionals about concussion awareness, treatment, rehabilitation, and academic accommodations.

In addition, organizations from California, New Hampshire, Georgia, and Texas have contacted the concussion program to solicit input and guidance for setting up similar outreach programs in their states.

ImPACT™ Baseline Concussion Testing

ImPACTTM is a computer-based test that evaluates and documents multiple aspects of an athlete’s neurocognitive state, such as:

  • Brain processing speed
  • Memory
  • Reaction time
  • Visual motor skills

It does not diagnose a concussion, but establishes benchmark data when a player is in a nonconcussed or “normal” state. Experts in concussion management and rehabilitation use the test as part of the clinical evaluation.

Even with the program’s success, the most vital benchmark of success is giving athletes of all ages the opportunity to undergo a neurocognitive baseline before they are injured. An athlete who sustains a concussion should have a comprehensive evaluation, which includes repeating the neurocognitive test after injury. This provides the neuropsychologist or physician with data to compare results of a post-injury test to the baseline test. This comparison, along with a comprehensive vestibular and medical evaluation, allows the clinician to determine the appropriate treatment and timeframe for the athlete’s return to play.

Learn more about HEADS UP Pittsburgh or schedule a neurocognitive baseline test online >

For more information or to schedule a neurocognitive baseline test by phone, contact Patrick Huber, concussion outreach coordinator, at 412-432-3635.

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