Statesboro High School Athletic Trainer Tim Ussery has implemented a new online cognitive ability testing system this year to obtain a more accurate picture of an athlete’s recovery after a head injury.
“This is a helpful tool that offers a pre-and post-test of a student’s cognitive abilities,” SHS Athletic Director Ken LeCain said.
Known as ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing), the program uses data to determine fitness for team play.
“It’s helpful to use an online testing system because there were previously problems with athletes faking symptom recovery when given oral tests because athletes wanted to get back into the sport as soon as possible,” Ussery said.
“Whenever Tim (Ussery) suspects that a head injury has occurred, the student is not allowed to return to the field,” LeCain said. “We’ve had to use the program with injured athletes this season, and it allowed us to monitor them in the days following the injury to determine at what point they could return to the field.”
According to Georgia High School Association (GHSA) rules, an athlete must pass memory tests once he/she had recovered from a head injury in order to return to play. Of the SHS’s 19 sports, football and soccer are where Ussery sees the most head injuries, so the program has been initially used with these athletics programs.
At the beginning of the football season, Ussery conducted baseline testing of all SHS football players to measure their cognitive abilities in a healthy state.
“Football players often get concussed by getting knocked down in tackles, and soccer players can get concussed due to head-to-ball injuries,” Ussery said. After an athlete has concussed and he/she requests to return to the team, he/she must test similar to his/her baseline test results in order to return to team play.
ImPACT tests six areas of cognitive ability including: attention span, working memory, sustained and selective attention time, response variability, non-verbal problem solving, and reaction time.
In about 20 minutes, the athlete completes a series of modules testing these cognitive abilities — Word Memory, Design Memory, Xs and Os, Symbol Matching, Color Match, and Three Letter Memory.
Ussery is a nationally certified athletic trainer employed by Optim Orthopedics. He is the athletic trainer for all sports at SHS. This is his 10th year with Bulloch County Schools.
Athletic Trainers Josh Will, at Portal Middle High, and Vaughn Miller, at Southeast Bulloch High, also are employed by Optim Orthopedics and plan to use the ImPACT testing system at their schools.