GROTON -- In a matter of days, athletes will be taking to the fields and competing for their respective schools.
Concussions are something that athletes usually put at the back of their minds, but not at Groton-Dunstable.
The Groton-Dunstable Athletic Booster Club, led by Becky Werner, funded a one-year license with ImPact, which stands for Immediate Post Concussion Assessment Cognitive Testing. Groton-Dunstable is one of the first high schools in the area to use the program.
Long gone are the days when an athlete just "had his bell rung." Oftentimes, concussions are associated with the bone-jarring collisions you would likely see on the football field or hockey rink, but Groton-Dunstable athletic director Mike McCaffrey is quick to dissolve that misnomer.
"It doesn't take a catastrophic hit to cause a concussion," McCaffrey said. "I think that is the myth we all grew up with; if you didn't get hit hard, there is no way you have a concussion. In fact, yeah, you could have a more severe one than what we actually thought."
Athletes don't always report their immediate symptoms to coaches, and in turn, coaches have a hard time deciphering when a kid is actually putting himself or herself at risk.
Prior to Groton-Dunstable administering ImPact testing, students could go to Pediatric West on Route 119 and take the test for $10.
Concussions have been appearing in the news more than ever with attempts to limit the impact of concussions ongoing.
"More and more schools are starting to do this," said McCaffrey. "All of our families are required to go on the National Federation of High School Sports and take a concussion seminar. We are not only educating the parents, now we are testing their son or daughter with an ImPact test. We actually have a baseline cognitive understanding of their child. Should anything happen, we have a reference point in our system."
Crusaders certified athletic trainer Steve Kleeman said that the tool is a necessary one to have at the school's disposal.
"The biggest thing is that I wanted to increase awareness and report when they happen," Kleeman said. "I think there are still too many kids who would like to not talk about it.
"One of my missions is to get accurate reporting," said Kleeman. "The other thing that is important is that they are held out until they are fully healed. The ImPact test is a help in making sure a kid is fully recovered."
ImPact gives athletic trainers and coaches the ability to assess different mental functions affected by a collision or sudden jerking of the head.
"We have tests, we have questions we can ask, but here is where we can test something subtle that you potentially wouldn't pick up like reaction time," Kleeman said. "Information processing, some memory issues that we might miss on the clinical exam, but the impact test might say that the kid is not ready."
The ImPact Test is by no means a replacement for the post-concussion evaluation by a physician, but it is a part of the process to make sure an athlete can safely return to competition.
"We know the spotlight is on concussions," said Kleeman. "We know the part as community athletics, 15-years-ago we were not properly treating concussions. This is just one more piece to help make sure we are doing what we can to manage those injuries better when they happen."
The test gives the student immediate feedback on whether he or she answered the question correctly. David Fei, a junior defensive lineman on the Crusaders varsity football team, was one of the first Groton-Dunstable athletes to take the ImPact test.
"I thought it was more memorizing than anything else," said Fei. "It was colors and shapes. General questions, really. It went pretty quick. They give you practice tests before the actual tests, so you know what to do. If I get my head knocked a little bit; I will come back and take this test, and, hopefully, find out if my memory isn't as keen."
The results of the ImPact test are valid for two years. Groton-Dunstable plans to test each of its athletes at the start of every season. The ImPact test is not limited to just athletes, students are welcome to take the test if they feel they have suffered a concussion.
For information on ImPact testing, visit Impacttest.com.