Broward Health Coral Springs is offering a pioneering program to help young athletes recover from concussions. The program is known as Head Strong.

All young people who participate in contact sports are encouraged have a baseline test that will show what their normal brain cognitive function is. If they sustain a concussion during a game or practice, the doctors who treat them will have the baseline test to use to determine if cognition has been affected. This will help them design an effective treatment program.

Head Strong is working with the Parkland Rangers football program to make sure all the players receive a baseline test. This is part of a research project being done in partnership with Riddell Helmets. They will install sensors on the helmets of Parkland Ranger players to measure the amount of impact from a hit on the player. This information gives the coaching staff objective data to help them decide if an athlete should return to play. It is also encouraging all Coral Springs and Parkland athletes to come in for this baseline test.

“Our focus is caring for young athletes,” said Cathy Parra, manager for rehabilitation services for Broward Health Coral Springs. “Our focus group is athletes age ten and up but we work younger patient also. We also work with adult athletes.”

When an athlete comes to Broward Health Coral Springs for the baseline test, they will complete a computer based test that will take about 20 minutes. It covers memories, speed of movement and reaction time. The results of that test are stored in database on a computer which can be pulled up anytime an injury occurs.

If a player arrives in the emergency room, they would receive a comprehensive medical workup that might include diagnostic tests and referral to specialists including rehabilitation. “If they have a baseline test and suffer a concussion, we will repeat the test and we can compare before and after results,” said Parra.

Head Strong developed in response to community and nationwide attention to the effects of concussions. Four years ago, Broward Health Coral Springs saw an increase in athletes coming in with concussions. There has been a movement nationwide to understand the effects of concussions, how to prevent concussion and how to treat them.

In recent year, concussions have been taken more seriously. In the past, if a player took a hard hit, he or she might return to play immediately. Today, we understand that the cumulative effects of impact are very important. Many professional athletes sustained two or three concussions and they were never the same. If you had 20 little concussions or three big ones, they might add up to the same effect.”

“We have had lots of athletes who have come in after a concussion and using the data from this test we have been able to design a rehab program to meet that athlete’s needs. The therapy will often include balance exercises, vestibular rehab, cognitive therapy and exertion training,” said Parra. “We work with the coaching staff and the athletic trainers to help the athlete transition back to competitive play.”

The test was designed and developed for youth athletes at the University of Pittsburgh. “We want to help athletes all over Coral Springs and Parkland but if they sustain a concussion and return them to play when it is safe. The coaches will want a top athlete in the game as soon as possible but a concussion can be a life threatening situation. And more leagues are developing rules requiring athletes who have concussion to sit out for a certain amount of time.

Those who want the test, should contact the Rehabilitation Department at Broward Health Coral Springs. The phone number is 954 344 3180. People should call because the baseline tests are done by appointment.