Tallahassee, FL – Kurt Zimmerman treats hundreds of athletes each year as Maclay’s athletic trainer. This is his seventh year at the school. But Zimmerman only started learning about concussions four years ago.
He’s now using the ImPACT testing tool, a computerized-based system that helps determine whether an individual can return to play. It’s a staple in Leon County, one of the only counties in Florida to implement this protocol at the high school level.
But detecting concussions while observing the field of play can sometimes be difficult.
“Sometimes somebody gets hit in the body and you can get a concussion by being hit in the body,” said Zimmerman, who has worked as an athletic trainer in Leon County for 10 years. “So, it’s very, very tough to tell without talking to the athlete.”
In the past year, Zimmerman said he’s had about five athletes with concussions, more than usual.
“I think it’s my responsibility to recognize that a kid is concussed and communicate that with the coach and hold them out,” he said.
Doctor Jacob VanLandingham studies brain injures at Florida State’s College of Medicine.
“Once someone is released to play, that individual’s brain is considered to be safe, to be healed and all of these things,” said VanLandingham, who has researched concussions for the past 16 years. “And I think currently we are developing more diagnostics to make sure that we’ve got that call right.”
Researchers at FSU’s Human Performance Lab use a three-step aerobic process. It involves memory retention on a treadmill, a bike and a balancing device. This helps determine the severity of a player’s concussion.
“They’re no longer dizzy, they’re balance is stable, they’re psychologically performing at the intellectual stage that they were prior to the injury, then we feel as though that brain has recovered and now it’s safe to go back in,” VanLandingham said.
But VanLandingham said there may never be a permanent solution.
“Look for drugs that can potentially be prophylactic (preventative). But not equipment – it won’t ever completely stop concussions,” he said.