Study Highlights Importance of Return to Play Issue, Also Sparks Debate about ImPACT

A new study, set for publication in the January issue of Brain Injury, has reinforced the belief that caregivers should be cautious before clearing previously concussed athletes to resume competition.

The Boston Globe reported on the study, which relied upon data from 54 athletes, primarily high school football, soccer, and hockey players in the Boston area.

The paper was quick to disclose that the authors of the study have a connection to Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing, or ImPACT, the market leader when it comes to evaluating sports concussions. Specifically, ImPACT is a computerized test of memory, reaction time, visual motor speed, and other cognitive tasks. A baseline test is performed in the preseason, so that it can be used for comparison if a student athlete is injured.

“While the study results suggest more ImPACT testing, there is a persistent controversy among some specialists about the overall usefulness of the test for concussion diagnosis and management,” according to the paper. “Further muddying the debate: ImPACT’s co-owners coauthored several of the published studies, including the latest one in Brain Injury.”

It goes on to quote Christopher Randolph, a clinical professor of neurology and director of neuropsychology service at Loyola University Medical Center, who has been a critic of ImPACT.

For the record, Mark Lovell, a co-founder of ImPACT Applications and a co-author on the study, admitted that “no test is perfect. ImPACT certainly isn’t perfect. It’s why we don’t say it should be used in and of itself.”

In fact, the newspaper paraphrases the experts when it notes that “ImPACT only measures cognitive symptoms, and there are three other types of concussion symptoms to consider, including physical (problems balancing), emotional (anxiety, depres­sion), and changes in sleep habits.”

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