POLAND, Ohio (WKBN) – You might think the ACT or the SAT is the most important test students will take in high school but if they’re an athlete, it may be the ImPACT test.
This test helps doctors diagnose concussions and needs to be taken before your student ever has a head injury.
The ImPACT test is used at 1,200 high schools across Ohio, most often for football players. It acts as a baseline, testing cognitive function before a blow to the head.
Doctors can compare their thinking and reaction times from before and after an injury. Experts say it’s a test that can change the rest of your life.
Nearly ten years ago, WKBN 27 First News introduced you to the ImPACT test. Back then, a handful of schools in Pennsylvania were using the new computer program to help diagnose concussions in their varsity football players.
Now, it’s spread across the country and to some schools in the Valley. It has also expanded to all sports, not just football.
Poland Schools gives all their student athletes the ImPACT test — from football players to cheerleaders, everyone gets checked.
“When dealing with the brain, it is not like a cut or an open wound where you can see what is going on and make a diagnosis,” said Boardman Athletic Director Brian Banfield.
He said students are often surprised to see how much a blow to the head can change their brain.
Junior Ben Morucci got a concussion from a hit this fall. The ImPACT test quickly showed him how much the hit affected his thinking.
“With a concussion, it is kind of hard to remember the shapes and stuff. It is hard to take,” Morucci said.
Boardman athletic trainer Mike Kenneally said sometimes the impact of a concussion doesn’t really hit students until they are doing their school work and trying to focus.
“Their capacities just aren’t there like they were before, so they know something’s wrong.”
Boardman football players have taken the test for about eight years and now the school is expanding it to include boys and girls soccer and lacrosse.
Kenneally said the tests are important because they’re objective.
“A kid is always going to tell you ‘I feel fine.’ Then they take their test and you say, ‘Sorry, you didn’t pass.'”
There are still thousands of people who get concussions without a baseline test. Not only does it make diagnosis more difficult, it also makes it harder to ensure complete recovery.
In Pittsburgh, the Penguins Foundation makes the test available for free to all high school students — something that becomes invaluable the second a concussion happens.
Tom Miller is a junior at Grove City College. He knows just how difficult a concussion can make your life.
Miller suffered a concussion four years ago in high school. His injury didn’t happen on the field, though. It happened in his bedroom on a windowsill.
When he first hit the base of his skull, he blacked out. Then the symptoms got worse.
“I would start speaking gibberish without even knowing it. It was very weird. Everyone would be looking at me weirdly and I would be like, ‘What is going on? Am I speaking a different language?'” Miller said.
He had never taken a baseline test before when he went to UMPC’s Sports Medicine Clinic. There, they gave him the ImPACT test.
But since it was administered after his injury, it couldn’t be used to diagnose him. Instead, doctors used it to measure his progress during six months of therapy, noting the areas where he improved and those where he didn’t. His treatment was based on the results.
Eventually, Miller mostly recovered. He still has some symptoms, including headaches.
Miller said he hopes people learn from what happened to him.
“This has affected my life and this will continue to affect my life. My biggest pet peeve is when people are playing sports and they hit their head, they just brush it off and move on. It is like, ‘No, this is serious.'”
Taking it seriously starts long before an injury with a baseline test.
For more information on the ImPACT test and to find providers in your area, go to impacttest.com.