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Making an ImPACT in concussion treatment

Health and Wellness, News

To better protect young athletes participating in high impact sports, all Hanford Joint Union high schools have implemented concussion testing. Adventist Health has the only provider in the county who’s undergone training and certification to interpret the tests and determine whether students are safe to return to the classroom and the sport.

Certified Family Nurse Practitioner Jessica Del Vecchio, at Adventist Health Physicians Network Hanford, earned her provider Credentialed ImPACT Consultant (CIC) concussion certification on Sept. 24. The certification validates that Del Vecchio has the knowledge and skills to be the main point of contact for concussion evaluations and treatment. Since becoming certified, she’s already cared for 5 patients.

“What’s exciting is that we get to use a multi-disciplinary approach and collaborate with our certified Adventist Health athletic trainers at each of the Hanford high schools and our physical therapists and speech language pathologists to determine the best outcomes for these athletes, so they don’t further injure themselves,” says Del Vecchio. “If they’re put back into the game too early, they could experience even more problems.”

The test the student athletes are required to take is called Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT). It’s a neurocognitive assessment that examines visual functioning, memory and other components of the brain. There are two parts to the test that are used in conjunction to determine if an athlete can safely return to any sporting activity:

  1. Baseline testing – athletes take this test to establish a baseline of normal cognitive function, prior to participating in a high impact sport. If the athlete suffers a head injury during the season, they’ll retake the ImPACT test and compare the results to the baseline.
  2. Post-injury testing – involves a neurological evaluation to examine for headaches, blurred vision, cognitive processing speed, memory, etc. If the results are at baseline, the athlete may be cleared to return to the sport. If there are changes in the scores, they retake the ImPACT test 7 days after injury and may be referred to a physical therapist and/or a speech language pathologist for treatment. Post-injury testing is vital to determining treatment, modifications to classroom learning and return to the sport. Athletes must return to baseline testing results before returning to full participation in their sport.

Del Vecchio says parents and coaches are grateful to have this service available, locally. But she says everyone: parents, coaches and event students, have a responsibility to speak up if they notice symptoms.

“We only have one brain,” says Del Vecchio. “We have to make sure we take care of it and let it recover fully, or else we run the risk of secondary concussion or other harmful scenarios.