Free concussion study for Michiana Kids

We've know for years that head injuries can lead to a lifetime of pain, depression and even death.

But we're now learning more about concussions and how serious they can be for young athletes.

One in ten athletes will suffer a concussion this year and how that is handled makes all the difference in the health of their brains in the future.

That's why a Michiana doctor is joining forces with a company already testing college athletes to conduct a study in the South Bend-Mishawaka area and they are looking for volunteers between the ages of 5 and 18 years old.

Most kids are active this summer and when school starts they'll be playing even more football, soccer and basketball.

Most of the time the worst thing they have to deal with is a loss, but this year one in ten of them will suffer a concussion and as the head of St. Joseph Regional Center's Sports Medicine Institute, Dr. Stephen Simon tells us, that is much more worrisome than we previously thought. "There's increasing concern and awareness of repetitive injury on the brain, especially on the young brain, both in terms of immediate risks of repeated concussion, risk of catestrophic injury and then also the long list of long range complications."

10-year old Virginia Boocher is at St. Joe Regional Medical Center's Sports Medicine Institute taking a concussion pre-screening test.

A technician helps Virginia with a practive test and then leaves her along in the room so she can concentrate on the card game she'll be playing on the computer.

Doctor Simons says it's kinf of like playing a video game, but it gives doctors valuable information.

"It's about a ten minute computer test that will be able to evaluate a person's functioning brain--are they able to react quickly, do they have good short term memory and be able to do some basic, cognitive, normal activities? With a concussion those things will all be slowed."

St. Joe is doing a year long study in conjunction with Axon Sports, which developed the computerized cognitive testing tool, long used by colleges-including Notre Dame. By having a baseline check, if your child takes a hard hit, or even falls off the monkey cars, Dr. Simon says doctors will know when it's safe for the to get back in the game.

"The purpose of this study is just to establish normals. So what's done is baseline tests are done before injury and then, in the event of an injury, they can be used to assess recovery of that brain to help determine return to play activities."

For the study, they are looking for 100 kids between the ages of 5 and 18. The initial test will be taken in the office and then a youngster will take it at home every month.

Dr. Simon says, "We anticipate with growth that children will actually improve on the test and that's what we're looking to establish, similar to a growth chart. How does a child with a growing brain improve on this test over a one year time frame?"

Which will give doctors valuable information and keep our children out of the game as long as it takes to make a full recovery.

And in the event your child has a head injury, Dr. Simon says doctors will have that baseline information to help treat them.

If you are interesting in having your child take part in the study you can contact SJRMC's Sports Medicine Institute at (574) 335-6214.

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