Portland study on concussions in high school athletes receives grant


(Alexandria, VA) The national Physician Assistant (PA) Foundation has awarded a $2,500 Community-based Project Grant to the Sideline Concussion Occurrence, Risk & Evaluation Study (SCORES), a one-year pilot study to determine the incidence of, magnitude, and cognitive deficit attributed to mild head injury among high school football players. The pilot study will use various technologies to study head injuries on a local high school varsity football team in Portland, Oregon. Negotiations are underway with area schools to participate in the study.

There is no definitive treatment for concussion-type injuries, so the focus has been on recognizing symptoms of an injury in patients and preventing further concussive injury.

"Concussion in high school athletes is not only under-reported, but also under-studied. The youth of our communities are more vulnerable to such injuries than are the adults," said Brian Granvall, PA-C, a physician assistant in trauma surgery/critical care at Legacy Emanuel Hospital who often sees high school students in his practice with varying degrees of closed head injuries resulting from sports. "This project breaks new ground in the hope of preventing future injuries by increasing awareness, creating an early detection system, and gaining early access to treatment."

Granvall, along with Dr. Jeff Chen and Dr. David Adler, designed a study that uses two different technologies to determine both the incidence and magnitude of concussive events in real-time, as well as the extent of the cognitive damage caused by the individual impacts.

Thirty to forty players on the football team will have an array of micro-accelerometers and sophisticated telemetry systems placed in their helmets, which will collect data regarding head impacts experienced by the players. The technology measures the magnitude, duration, location, and exact times of single or multiple impacts.

Players who experience an impact that fits a pre-defined profile will be immediately assessed on the sidelines for post-concussive symptoms. Those players will also undergo repeat testing to measure multiple aspects of neurocognitive functioning, including memory, brain processing speed, reaction time, and post-concussive symptoms. The testing process, called ImPACT, uses computer-based neuropsychological testing to establish baseline cognitive function, taken at the beginning of the season. Following an impact on the field, researchers will use the ImPACT system to compare the baseline report to tests done post-concussion.

The goal of the program is to identify the incidence and magnitude of concussion-causing events, whether reported or not, and to prevent second-impact syndrome by identifying those concussion-causing events that would have otherwise gone unreported.

"If the statistics in the literature are true, we will have prevented one devastating and several minor concussive injuries among the high school football players on one local team," said Granvall. "The hope is that our data is impressive enough to warrant an expansion study to include several, if not all, teams in the league. The overriding goal is to prevent injury and establish a science-driven method for evaluating and treating mild brain trauma in this population."

The Community-based Project Grant Program provides seed money for PAs and PA students launching innovative local community programs to improve health and human conditions. Community-based grants of up to $2,500 are awarded quarterly. Awards are granted for community-based initiatives that focus on service, education, or research.

Physician assistants are licensed health professionals who practice medicine as members of a team with their supervising physicians. PAs deliver a broad range of medical and surgical services to diverse populations in rural and urban settings. As part of their comprehensive responsibilities, PAs conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, counsel on preventive health care, assist in surgery, and prescribe medications.

As the philanthropic arm of the American Academy of Physician Assistants, the Physician Assistant Foundation fosters knowledge and philanthropy that enhance the delivery of quality health care. For more information about the PA Foundation, visit the organization's Web page, www.aapa.org/paf.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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