Healthy Living: Concussion research
Every football season, we're told how to prevent concussions before they strike: levy bigger penalties on players who head-hunt, or design a safer helmet like the one Chuck Schumer is campaigning for. But what about after the concussion? YNN’s Geoff Redick reports.
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"What we want, is to set standards for the helmets for young people," said Senator Chuck Schumer.
Every football season, we're told how to prevent concussions before they strike: levy bigger penalties on players who head-hunt, or design a safer helmet like the one Chuck Schumer is campaigning for. But what about after the concussion?
According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, people who suffer one concussion are four to six times more likely to suffer another. The Association also reports that this so-called "second-impact syndrome" can cause fatal swelling of the brain.
"Once you start to exercise somebody, the brain has to control the level of blood flow from the body," said John Leddy, University at Buffalo researcher.
At the University of Buffalo, researchers have developed a new method to be sure athletes have fully recovered before returning from a concussion.
"The treadmill test we use is a standardized and scientific way to evaluate that process. We put someone on a treadmill, and as they exercise their cerebral blood flow goes up," said Leddy.
As long as the body maintains consistent blood pressure, the athlete stays on the treadmill.
"But if they can't, they have to stop. And we think that indicates that the blood flow is too great at that point, and so they are not ready to return to play yet," said Leddy.
The other method for testing concussion victims is through their mind, analyzing how well they solve simple patterns and problems.
"This is a memorization part of the test," said Ron Funke, Pembroke H.S. Athletic Director.
The "ImPACT" computer program serves this role at many area high schools. Athletes take the test when they are 100-percent healthy; if they suffer a concussion, they must re-take the test, and compare the results.
"So you look at all these words; and then when the series of words is done, they're going to ask you to recollect, whether those words were on there," said Funke.
Most schools using "ImPACT" administer the test to all students, every two years -- not only the student-athletes.
"Any classroom, hallway accident, lunchroom occurrence -- that's why we do every student," said Funke.
Both methods are already being researched and used by the NFL.