concussions. The program is known as Head Strong.

All young people who participate in contact sports are encouraged have a baseline concussion test known as the ImPACT 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 information 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. The company 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. All Coral Springs and Parkland athletes are being encouraged 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 with younger patients. We also work with adult athletes.”

When athletes come 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 a concussion occurs.

If a player arrives in the emergency room, they will 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 competitive 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,” said Parra. A large number of smaller concussions can also lead to problems.

“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 rehabilitation program to meet that athlete’s needs. The therapy will often include balance exercises, vestibular rehabilitation, 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.”