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Using your head to prevent long-term effects of concussions

Sep. 23, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- With all of the media attention surrounding concussions in sports over the past few years, it's no surprise that a local program has taken root to help athletes avoid cumulative injuries that could impact their health long after their playing days.

Dr. Stanley Tao with Scott Orthopedic Center said the national attention on players who suffer symptoms such as headaches, memory loss, depression and other decreased cognitive function sometimes decades after they were getting their head jarred in a football stadium opened the door for the ImPACT Concussion Testing Program.

A joint venture with Scott Orthopedic Sports Medicine and St. Mary's Regional Neuroscience Center, the program uses a computer test to determine if an athlete has had a concussion, whether there is evidence of recurring concussions, the proper treatment for an athlete, and when an athlete can get back to playing their sport.

"I actually tried to start this about 10 years ago, but people weren't interested," Tao said. "It took 10 years to bring this to light. Back then, it was sort of a badge of honor to suffer a concussion or play through a concussion.

"Now it's in the national limelight, and parents are saying 'I don't want that happening to my kid.'"

The ImPACT Program generally applies to contact sports such as football or other sports where the head is used, such as soccer.

It was developed in the early 1990s, and is now utilized locally by all schools in the middle school and high school levels in Cabell County, as well as surrounding counties and parts of Ohio.

Former Marshall University and NFL player Mike Bartrum, who now coaches Meigs High School in Ohio, has endorsed the program.

Bartrum has said he "wasn't very smart" about concussions during his playing career, and continues to suffer from headaches.

So, he became involved with the program to keep his players from making similar mistakes when it comes to their health.

Tao said the program is getting "busier and busier" as it has become more established.

"In the beginning, we didn't see too many kids," Tao said. "Now, we're seeing two or three a day."

That is not necessarily a sign that more concussions are occurring, but that more athletes are getting checked out since concussions have typically gone under-diagnosed for several years.

"It's pretty standard for most high schools to have a program like this that they use," Tao said. "People are interested and paying attention now."

For more information about the ImPACT Program people can contact David Proctor at Scott Orthopedic Center, 304-525-6996 or 800-631-9014 or call call St. Mary's Regional Neuroscience Center, 304-526-1184.