by Monica Robins
June 15, 2010
Brain scans often don't pick up concussions, so doctors rely on cognitive tests to diagnose a patient.
This fall Cleveland-area high school athletes will take a concussion test so doctors can track their progress should they get injured.
Typically, concussions don't show up on standard medical tests. That's why doctors rely on cognitive testing to check brain function.
"Most of the neuropsych tests that we give are sort of like puzzles and games and brain teasers. And with the computerized test they're even more so like video games," said Christopher Baily, Ph.D., UH Neuropsychologist.
University hospitals use the A-Nam test or Automated Neuropsychological Assessment metric.
Come fall, student athletes at five schools and two colleges will take the test for a baseline evaluation. If they get a concussion they must take the test again to check progress.
"The neuropsych testing provides an objective measure. So you can't fake good on the neuropsych testing, you're thinking is back to where we expect it to be or it's not," said Bailey.
Susannah Conway wishes she had access to the test in 2008 before a concussion during a soccer game sidelined her permanently.
"I had a lot more trouble concentrating than usual. Simple things like walking up the stairs would make my head hurt," said Conway.
Physical recovery took Conway two months, but one hit was all she could take. Her short term memory was affected for months.
Bailey estimates about 20 percent of the athletes they'll test will return with a concussion.
Cleveland Clinic along with Akron Children's and Summa Hospitals have used a similar test for the last few years.
It's basically the same premise as A-Nam. All college and high school athletes covered by Cleveland Clinic Sports Health take the immediate post-concussion assessment and cognitive test. It's called impact. As of now, these tests are the best tools out there, but research is ongoing.
"There are genetic studies being done at different institutions around the country looking to see if there are markers that we can use to help predict people who won't do as well," said Dr. Paul Gubanich, Cleveland Clinic.
For now, trainers and coaches and the athletes themselves, are on the front line of defense against concussions.
"The NCAA has announced that they're going to have a new concussion management programs and guidelines. We see some of the professional teams like the NFL changing some of their management strategies," said Gubanich.
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