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New tool for identifying concussions in athletes

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- An Oklahoma doctor has a new strategy for diagnosing concussions in high school and collegiate athletes.

There is a renewed effort at schools across the country for better safety guidelines regarding concussions, especially for students who participate in athletics. 

University of Central Oklahoma Athletic Trainer, Ed Kabrick, sees one or two concussions each week.

"Even though you're taught and you learn how to handle concussions, each individual reacts differently to each injury and the severity of each injury," Kabrick said. "It's difficult to evaluate the brain."

Last year UCO started working with Community Hospital Family Medicine Dr. Jason Leinen to test every player on the football team.

Leinen specializes in sports medicine and has been specifically trained in identifying and treating concussions in athletes.

Leinen has also worked with the football programs at Newcastle High School, Mustang High School, Yukon High School and Del City High School.

Dr. Leinen believes the latest breakthrough in sports medicine is the "Impact Test," a specially-formulated computer test administered to athletes to assess cognitive function.

Dr. Leinen tests each student athlete at the beginning of the season and then again if the coach suspects concussion.

"Impact" is a neurocognitive test which measures reaction time, spacial skills and visual function.

"Just like you try and buy them the best helmet or the best bat or the best shoes, I think this kind of comes along with preparation for your sport," Leinen said.

Many states have passed laws regarding students healing properly from a concussion before they can compete again.

The biggest risk for a student who has been diagnosed with a concussion is re-injury.

A second injury to a brain that has not healed completely from the initial can be fatal.

"It makes our job easier because now we have something to go on other than just a student athlete telling us, 'I'm OK today,'" Kabrick said.

Health insurance sometimes covers the test but often does not cover the baseline.

Community Hospital currently offers the baseline test for $40.

"If your child is in a high-risk sport, or they play multiple sports, or they are aggressive, then they are at risk for concussion. The Impact Test is a valuable tool," Leinen said.

For more information about the OSSO Spine and Hand Center concussion program call (405) 600-1411 or email OSSOspecialtycenter@gmail.com.