High School Football is back! And as your son or daughter returns to the field, we all understand one of the big concerns is concussions.
NeuroCom began as a balance test for astronauts returning from space in the 1970s. It's evolved in many ways over the last four decades and now also serves as a way to monitor the effects of concussions.
The 20-minute test is recommended and endorsed by the NCAA and is now offered at Memorial Hospital's Rehab Center on Main Street in Mishawaka, just off Cleveland Road.
The key to the test is for it to be done before the season starts. Then if there is an incident during the season, an athlete can re-take the test to see how their brain may have been effected.
Brock Haut in the Impatient Clinical Manager for the Memorial's Rehab Center and runs the program. He played high school football in the 90s at Fort Wayne Snider.
"When you had a head injury then, you talked to the trainer and they ask you a couple of questions---if you can answer them--tell them your name--it's alright back on the field," Haut remembers.
Now, we are understanding more than ever how serious concussions can be.
"When you are dealing with an athlete, it's a finally tuned body so you need something that is very precise so that you can detect those very very subtle differences that they have," Haut explains.
Haut says Neurocom is just that. I checked it out and took part in the test myself.
I got latched into a harness for protection and was asked to attempt to remain as balanced as possible in a number of different situations including with my my eyes open, my eyes closed, my eyes open and the walls around me moving and with my eyes closed and the platform I'm standing on moving as I moved.
"If the brain is not able to detect that information and formulate an effective plan, that's going to show up on here," Haut says. "So the brain is definitely the central processing unit of the balance system."
I took two trials of each situation. Haut says those that go through the test for real will take three trials.
The results are instant. After taking the test, you can see how you stand against those your age as well as how you did amongst your different trials.
The key is that this is the baseline test--one to take now--before the season. Then if something happens again during the season, you take the test again and the therapists are able to evaluate how you compare pre-injury to post-injury.
"What's normal for you might not be normal for someone else," Haut says. "Because of the sensitivity of the machine, it picks up on very very subtle changes that might go undetected compared to standing with your eyes closed on the sideline after taking a hit to the head."
The next big question---the cost?
Memorial is offering the the pre-screening test for an out of pocket charge of $40. If an in-season test is needed following a head injury than this would be a physician ordered service and therefore billable through insurance.
Because a person's brain is constantly evolving, it's recommended the pre-season test be taken each year before each season.
They will also give you a memory test and ask questions about symptoms observed by the athletic trainer and reported by the athlete. Those factors are all a part of the final evaluation that can help determine when is the right time for your son or daughter to return to the field.
If you want more information on the test or would like to sign up for it, you can do so by calling 574-647-2930.