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Free Baseline Concussion Testing Helps Improve Concussion Severity Diagnoses

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Robbie Del Castillo, 21, suffered his first concussion while playing lacrosse during his senior year of high school. In the past year, he’s had three more.

Del Castillo has never taken a baseline concussion test, a test that analyzes different domains of the brain prior to injury as a basis for diagnosing potential future injury, nor has he heard of it.

“When I went to the doctor, there was no actual data on how much I had regressed, besides me saying I didn’t feel the same anymore,” he said.

In order to improve diagnoses of concussion severity, organizations Athlete Brain and Health IMPACTS for Florida have teamed to provide free baseline concussion testing for children between the ages of 9 and 18.

The goals of Athlete Brain are to improve education about concussions and provide baseline concussion testing to the community.

Health IMPACTS for Florida was established by the University of Florida and Florida State University to conduct research and better the health of Floridians.

The baseline concussion test takes about 15 minutes and looks at the different domains of the brain that are affected by concussions, said Aliyah Snyder, founder of Athlete Brain and research coordinator for Health IMPACTS for Florida. Learning and memory are tested with a written test, and balance and coordination are tested with a physical test.

The Sports Concussion Assessment Tool (SCAT) is used to analyze the tests. A new and recently developed version of the tool, SCAT3, was used to analyze the baseline concussion tests done by Athlete Brain during the past month. As of now, Athlete Brain has collected data from about 30 children using the SCAT3.

Between 15 and 20 children were tested on Saturday, some as young as 5 years old.

Athlete Brain and Health IMPACTS for Florida usually provide free baseline concussion testing once a month in hopes of collecting enough data to create a normative database, Snyder said.

Testing began in August 2011 with the SCAT2, but have since switched to the SCAT3. Establishing norms will allow doctors to better diagnose the severity of the injuries of patients who have not taken the test, she said.

Dr. Jason Zaremski of the UF Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation practices at the UF Health Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine Institute. He said baseline concussion testing is important because doctors are able to get a cognitive and physical assessment of young athletes.

“It is very helpful to have a broad picture of what my patient was like before a concussion,” Zaremski said.

Free baseline concussion testing will be offered on Sept. 26 at F.W. Buchholz High School, 5510 NW 27th Ave. in Gainesville, for the women’s lacrosse team.

Baseline concussion testing is not limited to athletes. Snyder said it’s easy to get a concussion no matter who you are.

“You can get a concussion as easily by walking down the street and tripping over your own feet as you can by getting hit in the head with a soccer ball,” Snyder said.

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