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RPS 205 to Use New Injury-Monitoring Technology for Student Athletes


​​Student athletes this school year will use new technology as an additional tool to monitor head injuries sustained during practice and play. Thanks to a grant from The Community Foundation of Northern Illinois, OSF HealthCare Saint Anthony Medical Center athletic trainers will conduct baseline testing for student athletes who participate in a contact sport through the Immediate Post Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Test (ImPACT). If a trainer or coach suspects a head injury, the student will be reassessed with ImPACT. Results will be compared to baseline data to help assess the injury and determine when it is safe to return to play.  

The district is asking some student athletes – students who participate in freshmen football and freshmen girls soccer – to participate in a study led by OSF Saint Anthony College of Nursing that will help health care experts assess and treat head injuries. The local study asks the question: Do student baselines change as students continue to participate in contact sports while in high school? While all contact sport athletes will use the assessment, OSF will only collect data from freshmen football and freshmen girls soccer players for the study over the next four years. Student data will not be shared without permission from his/her parent/guardian.

ImPACT is a computerized, National Gold-Standard test used in professional, college and high school sports across the country to assess head injuries. It will be another tool to ensure students remain as safe as possible during contact sports. "Any time we can be at the forefront of safety for our student athletes, we should do that," said Mat Parker, Director of Athletics, Activities and Program Development for Rockford Public Schools. The district has established return-to-learn and return-to-play protocol and has a policy that addresses head injuries.

How the assessment works: Participating student athletes will take the computerized exam during the first two weeks of practice to establish a baseline: how each student athlete performs under regular circumstances without a potential brain injury. The non-invasive exam is set up like a video game and takes 20-25 minutes to complete. OSF officials describe it as a physical exam for the brain that measures memory, reaction time, speed and attention.

How to opt into the study: Families of freshmen football and freshmen girls soccer players will receive a consent form at the start of their season to opt into the study. The software will be utilized for four years with this same group of students.

About the OSF study: The study is led by Brandie Messer, DNP, RN, Doctor of Nursing Practice Program Coordinator at OSF Saint Anthony College of Nursing. If a student athlete experiences a head injury, he or she will still be checked – following current RPS 205 head injury protocol – on the sidelines for the extent and severity of the damage. With the addition of ImPACT, the student athlete will be retested using ImPACT within 24-48 hours of the injury, again on the third day following the injury, a week after the injury, and 15 days after the injury. The test data will assist coaches and health care experts in determining when it is safe to return to both the classroom and play. As a final test/data point, participating student athletes will take a post-season test at the end of the season meeting.

About the grant: The Board of Trustees of the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois approved a $25,515 grant for OSF Saint Anthony College of Nursing with support from the Dr. Louis & Violet Rubin Fund of the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois for baseline concussion testing. The grant is worth $25,515 over four years, and there is no cost to the district. The college will purchase the software, and OSF athletic trainers will learn how to use the software and manage the testing.