Baseline testing will be required from football players, cheerleaders, wrestlers, and soccer players for the 2016-2017 school year, and it is the board’s hope that this testing is extended to all student athletes. The test is administered in a computer lab and is only a piece of the puzzle when determining whether or not a student has had a concussion, and the program will provide more data on its usefulness.
“Baseline testing is a cognitive test, which athletes would take prior to their participation in any activities,” said Hez Butler, “providing an actual baseline in the event head injury or concussions occur.”
Butler along with Josie McMahon and Christie Harris explained the test as being in accurate in the upper 90 percent’s. Students should not be able to fool the test. The test will actually lock out athletes that are inconsistent. Butler actually said if somebody could fool the test, they would better fit in at MICA.
The test takes into consideration a number of factors, even psychological ones such as ADHD or depression.
The data collected is general knowledge the student already possesses, and this knowledge is not likely to change over the span of two-years, so one test will suffice for a duration of two years. After that, another is required as an update reflecting mental growth.
“Concussions can occur not just from one striking the head, but even a simple jarring motion,” McMahon said. “If a student athlete falls and doesn’t necessarily hit their heads, that jarring motion could still cause a concussive event.”
The board questioned the fallibility of the tests, and not just in terms of tricking the program. Vice chairman Lewis E. Stevenson asked about transfer students that wanted to play, and more specifically transfer students that had experienced concussion at their last school.
One possibility when dealing with a transfer student with potential concussive history is to contact the staff at the prior school and simply ask about any history of concussive events. In any case, transfer students would still be required to take the baseline test. The answer ultimately comes down to parents, teachers and others in contact with student athletes.
“No concussion is the same,” McMahon said. “It is totally unique in every case.”
There are indicatrs of concussions, but student athletes are stepping up when they become concerned with their own health.
Otherwise, vigilance is required in part by other people in the student’s life. One indicator of concussion is memory loss, which is precisely what the baseline test is determining.
Protocol right now requires student athletes to fully heal incrementally depending on the severity before returning both to the classroom and field. This can require rest, deprivation of interactions and technology, and on the other end of the spectrum, participating from the sidelines.
The board favored the measure unanimously, and actually requested that the pilot be expanded to all school sports. The test is offered at no cost to the county or athletes through the generosity of both the schools allowing use of computer labs, and the donation of time from Hez, Josie and Christie to administer the tests.