With high school football practice underway, doctors are noting that preseason concussion testing is a requirement at Montana high schools.
“If the athlete was to suffer from a concussion, that is something that can be used in the diagnosis and management of the concussion,” Dr. Paul Johnson, M.D., director of sports medicine at Benefis Health System, said.
To pretest for a concussion, an individual will take a computerized test to determine a baseline.
“When they talk about concussion and pretesting, it’s a computerized test that can be used in the event if any athlete may have suffered a concussion. It’s a tool that can help with the management of a concussed athlete on helping them with their return to play,” Johnson said. “It’s usually a sit-down computer test that takes about 30 minutes. It looks at their short-term memory and reaction time.”
Johnson has been practicing medicine for 20 years.
“Fall is predominately when you see the most [concussions]. Football and soccer. Then during the winter season, you see some basketball. You definitely see some hockey. Then, throughout the whole year, we’ll have people with motor vehicle accidents, bicycle, skateboarding, equestrian. You can get a concussion in any sport or daily activity,” Johnson said.
He says although pretesting is important in order to get that baseline, an exam by a medical professional is key.
“If you are specialized in concussion management, you’re going to look at a lot of aspects on what kind of an injury it was. Was it a direct helmet to helmet or a head to head? Was it head to playing surface, or head to a football or basketball? Then you’re going to do an examination. You’re going to review some of their memory questions. A lot of times looking at how their eyes are operating, and their balance is some key components that we look at in the physical to determine if they may or may not have a concussion,” Johnson said.
Symptoms of a concussion include, but are not limited to, headache, light-sensitivity, and fatigue, nausea, confusion, etc.
Johnson says there are preventative efforts to keep from getting a concussion, but no real way to keep from getting a concussion.
“Prevention of a concussion really comes down to technique. There’s no significant manufactured product that will eliminate or decrease a concussion. It comes down to proper tackling or proper heading of the ball. Good education from the coach’s standpoint to make sure that the athletes are doing their sports technique correctly is the best way to prevent a concussion,” Johnson said. “When you think of how a concussion occurs, your brain is essentially bouncing in your skull and that’s how you get the injury. It’s a deceleration injury. So, an athlete such as a football player collides with another football player and they have a helmet-to-helmet collision, the helmet is there to protect them from catastrophic injuries like a skull fracture, but it doesn’t prevent the possibility of a concussion occurring.”
Johnson says it’s important to get your physical before participating in a sport.
“It’s a great opportunity to come in and ask any questions from the provider of both diet and exercise and any past history. Question so you have the time to be counseled and get prepared for the season,” Johnson said.