New tool helps screen young athletes for concussion

Image 1 of 3

10-year old Blaine Dyer is getting a checkup of his brain.

Gwinnett Medical Center pediatric neuropsychologist Dr. Adam Shunk wants to know how the Dacula fourth-grader is doing after Dyer took a hard hit during a youth football scrimmage game a couple of months ago.

“When I play football, I don't cry unless I'm really hurt,” says the Gwinnett fourth-grader.

But, this time, Dyer did cry, for good reason.

“This kid grabbed my legs and then another kid came beside me and hit me right on my head,” he says. “It was hurting my head, because my helmet was squishing my head a little."

Dyer was taken out of the game, suspected of having a concussion.

That hit may have jarred or shaken his brain inside his skull.

Sometimes there are symptoms, but sometimes not.

And while it's dangerous to return to play too soon, before the brain has had time to heal,  Dr. Shunk says many young athletes may be reluctant to admit they're hurting.

 "I mean every kid wants to get back on the field as quick as possible,” says Shunk.  “So they're not always going to tell you when they're having symptoms."

Dyer says he wanted back on the field.

"And I was kind of mad, because I really wanted to play my game, because I'd been waiting for it,” he says.

But a new screening tool could take the guesswork out of screening children as young as 5 for concussion.

It's called ImPACT Pediatric.

"It evaluates areas that are sensitive to a concussion: such as speed of processing, their learning and memory abilities and general attention, that can be disrupted when you're recovering from a concussion,” says Dr. Shunk.

Many high school and college athletes already get baseline ImPACT screenings before their season begins.
Then, they retake the test to look for changes in their performance after a suspected concussion.

Now, Dr Shunk says, they can do the same before and after screening for athletes between the ages of 5 and 11.

Blaine Dyer, who is now happily back in the game, recently scored his first touchdown of the season.

It's really exciting,” he says.  “When you first go out there, and you have a concussion.  And then you  go back on the field and score a touchdown, it's really cool.”