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3 Utah high schools use new test to help concussion recovery

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SALT LAKE CITY -- As Utah high school football teams pursue a championship win this weekend, big hits will bring football fans to their feet. However, the hard hits can often lead to serious risks for athletes, especially for athletes who are hit in the head.

A recent study found 40 percent of high school athletes who suffer concussions return to action too soon, with many of them sustaining more serious injuries as a result of their early return. But three Utah high schools are working with a new test that aims to prevent additional injuries.

West Jordan, Copper Hills and Riverton High School are issuing a new mental acuity computer test to approximately 300 of their student athletes. The test takes 20 minutes, measuring short term memory and reaction time, which gives test administrators a baseline to compare with after an athlete gets hurt.

This test can be used as a great tool to help us find problems that we wouldn't find otherwise.

–Matt Gubler

"They can have something called second impact syndrome; that's something that can involve death," described Copper Hills High team physician Dr. Joseph Fyans. "So that's the number one thing, it can help us to not get these student athletes back in too soon."

"This test can be used as a great tool to help us find problems that we wouldn't find otherwise," added West Jordan High athletic trainer Matt Gubler.

The test give athletes, trainers, doctors and coaches better information about an injury that is frequently tough to diagnose.

High school football athletes play faster and more furious than ever, which results in bone-crunching hits and bell- ringing collisions. Former football player Troy Humphreys knows all about that.

Concussion Facts:
  • A concussion is a brain injury.
  • All concussions are serious.
  • Most concussions occur without loss of consciousness.
  • Concussions can occur in any sport or recreation activity.
  • Recognition and proper response to concussions when they first occur can help prevent further injury or even death

As a former linebacker for West Jordan High, Humphreys sustained a serious hit to the head, which ultimately gave him a concussion. He recalls being dizzy and didn't know where he was, but didn't tell anyone because he wanted to keep playing.

"I kept playing on my concussion and it kept getting worse and worse," Humphreys said. "After the game I blacked out. At the end of the game, I had to be rushed to the hospital because I kept playing on it. I ended up being out for two weeks because it got worse and worse."

"More than 50 percent of concussions don't involve someone actually losing consciousness," said Dr. Fyans.

There's a movement gaining steam in a number of states to pass youth concussion laws, which require trained medical professionals, rather than coaches, to diagnose concussions. About 10 states have passed similar laws.

During the 2011 legislative session, Utah lawmakers passed HB 204. It requires organizations, including schools with sports teams, to have written concussion/head injury policies in place. These policies require youth athletes to be medically cleared by qualified health care providers before returning to play.

The law went into effect in July 2011 and for schools on Sept. 15. The Utah Health Department says many organizations and schools around the state have implemented or are writing head injury policies.



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John Daley


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