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UPMC Sports Concussion Program Is First To Provide Baseline Brain Function Test For Recreational Athletes, General Public​

PITTSBURGH, July 22, 2004 For any recreational athlete or non-athlete who participates in activities that may pose risk for concussion, the UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center) Sports Medicine Concussion Program is the first to provide a baseline brain function test whose data would be used to better manage a concussion should such an injury occur.

Previously, the computerized concussion evaluation system, called ImPACT (Immediate Post-concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing), was available only to athletes on high school, collegiate, elite or professional sports teams or within athletic organizations who used the system. This is the first time that ImPACT will be available to any individual aged 10 and older, including recreational and serious athletes and non-athletes. These may include, for example, skiers, snowboarders, skateboarders, cyclists and recreational basketball and softball players.

The ImPACT baseline testing will be available by appointment only from 7 to 10 p.m., Wednesday, July 28; and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, July 31 at the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine, 3200 South Water Street, off Hot Metal Street, South Side, Pittsburgh. Pre-registration is required, by calling 412-432-3770. The cost for the baseline test and data storage is $40.

ImPACT, developed by doctors at the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program, has proven to be a useful tool in measuring the severity and effects of concussion and determining when it is safe for concussed athletes or individuals to return to sports or activity. With ImPACT, the athlete or individual takes a pre-season or pre-activity 20-minute test on a computer that measures brain processing such as speed, memory and visual motor skills. The individual's baseline data are stored in a computer file. Should the individual ever experience a concussion, he or she will take the ImPACT test several times in the days following concussion. Post-concussion data are then compared to baseline data to help determine the severity and effects of the injury. The data help determine when the athlete's neurocognitive brain function has returned to baseline scores when it is safe for the athlete or individual to return to sports or activity.

A concussion, which occurs in about 10 percent of all athletes in contact sports, is any alteration of mental status due to sudden and violent rocking of the brain inside of the skull caused by a traumatic blow to the head or upper body. Concussion symptoms, lasting various lengths of time, may include amnesia, disorientation, confusion, fogginess, headache, blurred vision, nausea, fatigue and sometimes loss of consciousness.

"Symptoms are not always definite and the decision to allow an individual to return to activity is not always clear and that is where ImPACT's data help us," said Mark Lovell, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist and director of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program.

"Most athletes who experience an initial concussion can recover completely as long as they are not returned to exertion or contact play too soon. Research clearly shows that the effects of repeated concussions are cumulative. A concussed athlete whose injury is not managed properly and who returns to play too soon before the brain has had time to heal is at greater risk for further, more serious injury, and that is a road you never want to travel," said Dr. Lovell.

ImPACT, developed over the past decade, today is used by more than 100 high schools in western Pennsylvania and more than 400 high schools and 150 major colleges and universities nationwide, in addition to numerous professional sports organizations, including the National Football League, Indianapolis Racing League, Formula 1 Racing, and several National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball teams.

The UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program, established in 2000, is an ongoing clinical and research program that focuses on the diagnosis and management of sports-related concussion in athletes of all levels.

For more information, visit the Sports Medicine website.

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