Clara Barton Therapy Services Offers

Concussion Pre-Testing for Athletes

July 19, 2019

Over the last few years, concussions have been widely discussed after claiming the lives of high school athletes across the nation. They are a common, yet serious, occurrence in high-impact sports affecting brain performance and function. Although no athlete wants to be taken out of the game, concussions can have serious consequences, especially if gone undetected and untreated. Clara Barton Therapy Services and their physical therapists are excited to now be providing advanced concussion testing and treatments thanks to the new Biodex Balance System that was recently installed in their facility.

“When someone hears the term ‘concussion’, they don’t think it sounds as serious as a traumatic brain injury,” said Alesia Schenweis, DPT. “What they don’t realize is that a concussion is a mild form of traumatic brain injury and should be taken very seriously.” 

Previously, the Therapy Services department lacked the medical equipment needed to diagnose and treat a concussion with substantial accuracy. Physical Therapists would conduct a symptom check on the sidelines to determine if it was safe for a player to continue in the game or needed to sit out, but had limited options to objectively take any further steps. If a player was suspected to have suffered a concussion, they were sent to the ER to be monitored and treated.

In addition to making a sideline appearance at football games, this fall Clara Barton Therapy Services will be offering Hoisington and Central Plains football players pre and post-season testing to assist in the detection of concussions. A pre-season test will be taken to set a baseline reading for athletes. This enables the therapists to objectively measure an athlete’s normal reading so if an accident occurs, they will be able to compare the baseline results to the post-accident reading. If the post-accident reading has altered more than 15% from the baseline reading, the athlete will not be cleared to play and will continue to be monitored. Once a player’s neurological performance returns to their normal baseline level their provider can then clear them to play after examination. Post-season testing will also be conducted in order to catch missed concussions. If a concussion is detected, the proper precautions can be taken to ensure the safety of the athlete as they move forward to the winter sports season.

 “The Biodex machine and advanced testing has really helped us progress to the next level and ensure the safety of our players,” said Natalie Bieberle, DPT. “Having an intricate piece of equipment to objectively evaluate an athlete before and after they take a hard hit on the field is going to make a significant difference in accurately releasing an athlete back to play when they are physically and neurologically ready.”

With the new equipment and concussion protocol on-hand, the therapists have the capability of conducting a 3-part analysis which, when combined, can detect greater than 92% of all concussions.

The 3-part analysis involves:

Physical Therapists with Balance Machine
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  • Part 1) Graded Symptom Checklist – Going through a variety of concussion symptoms, confirming if they are present, and rating each symptom’s severity on a scale of 1 to 6
    (68% accuracy by itself)

  • Part 2) Cognitive Testing – Non-invasive way to measure brain function by assessing memory, perception, reaction time, attention, etc. (79% by itself)

  • Part 3) Functional Testing – Assessing aspects like sway analysis, ability to balance, and checking vision (62% by itself)

“Sometimes athletes will try to mask concussion symptoms to avoid being taken out of the game,” said Tamara Dody, DPT. “However, with this machine we can objectively measure if they truly are physically okay to play or not.”

Increased accuracy ensures that athletes are sitting out the appropriate amount of time, not releasing them too soon which could lead to serious injury, yet not making them sit out any longer than necessary. Each situation and athlete are different, requiring different recovery times. With this equipment, an athlete could potentially return to play faster with a mild injury if results prove they are back to their baseline reading.

Dody advocated for the addition of the balance machine not only because it can both test for and assist in treating concussions, but because of the wide use of treatments that it has made available for a number of other patients.

“The balance machine has also been utilized for fall risk assessments and people with balance deficits,” said Dody.

A fall risk assessment is usually used on geriatric patients to assess the likelihood of them falling and injuring themselves. Patients with balance deficits are those that are unsteady due to a variety of reasons such as a stroke, total hip or knee replacement, traumatic brain injury or even a leg/ankle/foot injury.

 “This equipment has been extremely beneficial to our patients with balance deficits because once they stand on this equipment, they’re able to see what a normal reading is and learn how to shift their body and increase their stability,” said Schneweis. “We are excited to see how this equipment will continue to play a role in the therapy and treatment of our patients across the board.”

To find out if this equipment could be of benefit to you and your treatment, talk to your physical therapist or provider, or more information call Clara Barton Therapy Services at 620-653-5065.

For Life-Threatening Emergencies Call 911