Sports concussions have captured public attention in recent years, with high-profile NFL players and other professional athletes stepping forward about the long-term effects of sports-related head injuries. Now, a new web-based program, Complete Neuro Sport, aims to guide coaches, athletes, and parents through the process of sports-related concussion management.
A 2011 study by the National Federation of State High School Associations estimated that 140,000 high school athletes suffer sports-related concussions each year.
In response to growing concerns about the safety of youth athletes, states increasingly are passing laws that mandate protocol for concussion evaluation and treatment: As of press time, 37 states and the District of Columbia impose legal requirements on schools to ensure that athletic departments meet certain requirements before the start of sports seasons. But these concussion rules vary in effectiveness.
“We have these mandatory concussions laws, but a lot of schools’ method of compliance is to hand a sheet to parents and ask them to sign. That really defeats the purpose,” said Harry Kerasidis, M.D., a co-founder of Complete Neuro Sport and neurologist with a private practice. “What we’re trying to do is truly educate parents as to why concussions occur and so on.”
For more news about sports and technology, see:
Developed based on Kerasidis’ neurological expertise and created by software developer Claudio Lassala, Complete Neuro Sport aims to provide a comprehensive concussion management program for schools and their communities, with education and baseline testing in the pre-season, sideline assessments that a coach or athletic trainer can administer during a game, and step-by-step guidance through the recovery process. Every stage of the process, which is in the final stages of beta testing and should enter the market in the fall, is web-based and can be accessed through computers or smart phones, the company says.
Other software programs, such as ImPACT, already exist to help schools conduct baseline testing on student athletes, so they have something to compare against when a student sustains a head injury. But Complete Neuro Sport bills itself as a complete, turnkey solution to managing sports concussions.
The process would begin during the pre-season with registration and education. A coach or athletic trainer would send parents and students eMail invitations to the Complete Neuro Sport online program. After creating usernames and passwords, the parents and students would watch an educational video and be required to pass a quiz on the information presented.
Once they have completed the educational requirements, students would undergo baseline tests to measure their brain performance through tasks such as memorizing word lists and measuring reaction time. Students also would complete a 30- to 45-minute physical fitness questionnaire about symptoms commonly associated with concussion injuries, such as headaches, nausea, dizziness, and imbalance. If the student suffers a concussion later, the results of the baseline test can help medical professionals determine when that student has fully recovered and can return to play.
Because the system is entirely online, students can take the baseline tests from home, at their convenience, making it easy for schools to ensure that everyone is tested.
When Maryland’s Calvert High School piloted ImPACT in fall 2011, a few parents “did not want their children to participate,” said Kevin Hook, athletics supervisor for Calvert County Public Schools, which hopes to implement Complete Neuro Sport in August. “So [the students] didn’t take the [baseline] test, but when the student really did have concussion-like symptoms, then it’s too late. Basically the doctors didn’t have anything to go on.”
Complete Neuro Sport goes beyond other baseline testing programs by establishing not only a physical and cognitive baseline, but also a baseline for emotional state and mood, said Frank Damasceno, co-founder and sales and marketing head of Complete Neuro Sport.
During the season, coaches and athletic trainers can use Complete Neuro Sport’s Android and iPhone apps to complete a step-by-step evaluation of any student that appears to have concussion-like symptoms. If the student indeed has suffered a concussion, the completed assessment results can be sent via automated eMail to the student’s doctor.
Once the system identifies a concussion, Complete Neuro Sport assists the student’s medical professional throughout the recovery process. “The most serious consequence of a concussion is to have another concussion during that same period,” Kerasidis said.
For more news about sports and technology, see:
Each night during the recovery period, the student completes a checklist of persistent symptoms so that his or her doctor can track the symptoms over time. Once the symptoms are resolved, the student completes additional testing to see if cognitive function and physical performance have returned to normal. Finally, the program guides the coach and student through a five-day recovery process, which outlines steps for intensifying training from light aerobic exercise to full exertion.
An initial concern about implementing the program was whether parents would have sufficient computer access to participate, but schools can solve this problem by allowing parents to complete the requirements in school computer labs during parent meetings, Hook said.
Another concern, Hook said, is how schools can shoulder the cost of the program without putting a burden on already cash-strapped school districts.
Complete Neuro Sport will be priced between $20 and $40 per athlete, per year, depending on the number of athletes in a school system. Its main competitor, ImPACT, charges about $9 for each baseline test, and then charges separately for additional services after that. In contrast, schools using Complete Neuro Sport will not incur any extra costs after the initial fee, Damasceno said.
Calvert County Public Schools wanted to “get behind [Complete Neuro Sport], because it looks like it’ll really be ahead of everything,” going far beyond what is required by concussion laws, Hook said. “This is a lifelong thing. If you’re this young and getting concussions, we need to take care of you.”