Broward establishes concussion testing for all student-athletes

Posted by Christian Barton on Mar 20, 2012 0 comments

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In September 2009 under a pilot program, football players take the Impact test on a computer. It helps create a baseline to be used in case of concussion. (Photo courtesy of Broward Health)

The Broward County School Board unanimously adopted a resolution Tuesday that will further concussion care and awareness for the county’s student-athletes.

The “Resolution in Support of Concussion Management and Neuro-Cognitive Testing for High School Athletes” will establish baseline testing for student-athletes so athletic trainers with the team can better diagnose concussions on an individual level.

The testing will go into effect before the start of spring football in May.

“This testing is on the cutting edge,” Damian Huttenhoff, Broward County Director of Athletics and Student Activities said. “We will be doing what they are doing in the National Football League. Our kids are as valuable.”

The tests, which set a control of a student’s comprehension, reaction time, attention and reasoning skills, will be used so trainers can compare those skills — against themselves —  after a student-athlete is suspected of having concussion.


Such testing had been present in Broward County before the passing of Tuesday’s resolution, but on a volunteer basis. The success of the program, along with the ability to find grants to fund it, gave confidence to Huttenhoff and his brain trust of doctors and concerned citizens that the program could be expanded.

“I think it’s ambitious to think we’ll get every child, but we’re going to do our best to make sure that happens,” said Frank Walters, the director of sports medicine at Broward Health.

Even if a student-athlete is not tested, the data collected from other students tested can provide a strong control.

A large sample size is expected to provide a safeguard against deliberate low scores on initial testing. Peyton Manning said last year that he sandbagged his baseline test, the first player to validate rumors the practice was happening.

“There’s checklists within the test that you can determine if people are giving a good effort, and the norms are on-going,” Stephen Russo, Assistant Professor at the Center for Psychological Studies at Nova Southeastern University said. “Sandbagging is one of our bigger concerns. When people are uneducated about the injury, that’s why we incorporate education into the baseline testing process.”

State legislature passed a bill this month that mandates that the Florida State High School Athletic Association establish rules for concussions, specifically outlining that athletes not be allowed to return from a concussion until medically cleared.

That bill is expected to become law in the coming weeks, but Huttenhoff said the action taken by Broward County is far ahead of that mandate.

Miami-Dade and Broward Counties have both contracted full-time athletic trainers for their schools, which makes the implementation of baseline concussion testing possible.

“If we can prevent and save lives now, then we’ve accomplished what we’ve intended to do,” Huttenhoff said. “Other than Miami-Dade, there’s nobody else who’s talking about this…It’s the right thing to do.”

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