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Pittsburgh Public Schools First Major City School District In The Country To Use ImPACT® Sports Concussion Evaluation System

PITTSBURGH, August 12, 2002 — The Pittsburgh Public School District is the first major city public school district in the country to use a computerized sports concussion evaluation system to assess the severity of concussions and help determine when it is safe for an athlete to return to play following a concussion.

Starting this fall, student athletes at all 10 of the city's public high schools who are involved in contact sports will be using the ImPACT (Immediate Post-concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) system, developed by Mark R. Lovell, Ph.D., director of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program.

Concussion occurs when a person's brain is violently rocked back and forth inside of the skull due to a blow to the head or upper body. Concussion can disturb brain activity and symptoms may include disorientation, confusion, dizziness, amnesia, uncoordinated hand-eye movements and sometimes unconsciousness.

Studies have shown that at least 10 percent of athletes involved in contact sports such as high school football and soccer sustain a concussion each season, according to Mark Lovell, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist who is director of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program.

"We believe that 10 percent is a conservative estimate and that many concussions go undiagnosed and unreported because symptoms are not always definite and it is difficult to concretely assess the effects of this injury," said Dr. Lovell.

"Most athletes who experience an initial concussion can recover completely as long as the brain has had time to heal and the athletes do not return to activity too soon, subjecting themselves to a second concussion. The effects of repeated concussion are cumulative. Therefore, allowing enough healing and recovery time is crucial in preventing any further damage," he said. "Following an initial concussion, there is a period of change in the brain function that may last anywhere from 24 hours to about 10 days. During this time, the brain is vulnerable to more severe or permanent injury, including brain swelling, cell and blood vessel damage and even death in very rare instances. This is why it is so important to have an assessment tool, such as ImPACT, for more accurate post-concussion evaluation."

With ImPACT, the schools' certified athletic trainers and team physicians can efficiently collect and store pre-season baseline data on each athlete's normal neurocognitive state by having them take the 20-minute computerized test that measures brain processing, speed, memory and visual motor skills. If an athlete experiences a concussion during the season, he or she is re-tested and baseline neurocognitive data are compared to the post-concussion data to help determine the effects of the concussion. The athlete can be re-tested several times to help determine when his or her neurocognitive function has returned to baseline measures and when it is safe to return to play.

"The office of interscholastic athletics at the Pittsburgh Public School District considers first, among all other priorities, the health and safety of student athletes," said Vernon Phillips, director, interscholastic athletics. "We have purchased ImPACT because it provides the medical team with additional information that is critically needed in determining when it is safe to return an athlete to play following a concussion."

Today, ImPACT is used by dozens of high schools in western Pennsylvania as well as 150 high schools and 70 colleges and universities across the country. The National Football League and numerous other national and international professional athletic organizations also use it.

The 10 Pittsburgh public high schools are: Allderdice, Brashear, Carrick, Langley, Oliver, Peabody, Perry, Schenley, South Vo-Tech and Westinghouse. The student athletes involved in fall contact sports will be baseline tested before the fall season's contact practice sessions begin.

For more information on ImPACT, please access www.impacttest.com. For more information on sports concussions and the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program, please access www.upmc.com.

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