Impact Software Increases Safety, Concussion Awareness for Student Athletes

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District 211 staff have worked hard to create awareness about head injuries for all student athletes involved in contact sports. Injuries in contact sports, which include football, cheerleading, and soccer to name a few, are heavily monitored by coaches, athletes, and parents.

Throughout the past few years, Impact software has been used to keep track of an individual athlete’s brain activity for head injuries, specifically concussions. This technological assessment has allowed athletic trainers and coaches to more effectively judge whether or not an athlete is injured and when they can return to competition.

“The start of the process is at the beginning of the season, when parents and student-athletes sign paperwork that is required by the state saying concussions are a danger in any type of sport or activity,” said John Shoro, head athletic trainer at Conant High School. “Then, we do a baseline test of what is considered relatively normal in terms of brain function using Impact software. Once we have that baseline, which is good for two years, we will do another test if a student-athlete is suspected of having a concussion to see if he or she is showing any deficient in brain function and the extent.”

The software monitors brain activity and response time during a test. The results on this assessment show how the individual’s brain functions when they are not injured. If a student-athlete is suspected of an injury or want to return from a concussion, they will have to complete the test again within 72 hours of the impact. A student-athlete will only be able to return if brain activity matches previous baseline data in conjunction with the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) guidelines, or after five days with no symptoms.

Shoro, who has been an athletic trainer for more than 20 years, said historically it was difficult to gauge whether or not a student-athlete was ready to return to competition because physicians relied on brain scans. These images could sometimes miss signs of an ongoing concussion. Incorporating the software has helped protect student-athletes from returning to competition too soon, even if they didn’t feel symptoms anymore or were hiding them. Once student-athletes pass the baseline test after an injury, they will complete a physical activity to make sure they are able to perform without symptoms returning. After that, they can return to a no-contact practice for a short period of time.

Although Shoro said he cannot say whether the amount of injuries have decreased because of the software, continued usage is a step in the right direction to preventing serious head injuries and returning to competition too soon. Overall, the software is helping keep student-athletes safe.

“Students might not feel symptoms even if they are there, and in the past they could be cleared for activity,” Shoro said. “They are not able to return as readily because the test is picking up on those symptoms. We’re doing a better job at educating kids, and as the increased awareness for concussions continues, kids are doing a better job at seeing that this is something that is important.”

For more information on IHSA guidelines for concussion management, please click here.