CHARLOTTE, N.C. - 16-year-old Trevor Fairbaugh plays soccer at East Meck High School. He was hit so hard in the head by a soccer ball last fall that he only remembers what everyone tells him. "It hit my chin, it was like getting an upper cut from a boxer," he says.
Just one week before his concussion, Trevor's coach made him take a computerized concussion evaluation test; a test he'd never taken before and didn't appreciate at the time. He says, "I was like 'why am I doing this? This is so stupid.' I'm like, 'I'm never gonna get a concussion.'"
Comparing Trevor's baseline test to his post-injury tests helped the experts determine when it was safe for him to return to the field. An unhealed concussion can lead to the far more dangerous "second impact syndrome," which includes rapid brain swelling and sometimes, even death.
CMS has had the concussion testing software, called ImPACT, in it's high schools for five years. It's so high level, the NFL, MLB, NHL and even NASCAR use it.
But only now is the software starting to be used consistently and effectively. "A lot of them did use it, but unfortunately they didn't have someone as knowledgeable as our staff to help implement that and that's what has made a big change," says certified athletic trainer Greg Hall.
This fall, despite threats of a double-dip recession, CMS and Carolinas Health Care system will implement phase two of a five year plan to put a certified athletic trainer in all of the district's high schools. Last year, Berry, Waddell, South Meck and East Meck got the trainers.
This year, Garinger, Harding, Myers Park, Vance and West Charlotte will get theirs. The trainers, all nationally certified and state licensed, are on the CHS payroll. And the ImPACT software is funded through Kohl's department store and grants.
It means top quality health care at no cost to the school system. Hall says at least once a week during the school year, he has to assess a student athlete for a concussion. "Time of recognition is crucial, especially with head injuries, they tend to get very bad very quickly," he says.
"Kids used to just shake this off and now, we're seeing just how dangerous that can be long term," says sports medicine Dr. David Price. He says concussion rates are on the rise, in part because technology makes it easier to ID them, and also because kids are getting bigger, faster and stronger. Price says, "Putting these athletic trainers in the schools is gonna be, I mean, it's unbelievably awesome, I don't know a better way to say that. It's gonna change people's lives."
Rising junior Trevor sat out for three weeks until his computerized ImPACT tests, evaluated by a certified athletic trainer, showed his memory, processing speed and reaction time were back up to snuff. He's urges kids who will take the baseline test this fall to "really focus on it the first time."
And he's grateful a certified trainer was on hand to identify his injury immediately. Trevor says, "Athletes, you know, we need to be diagnosed on the field."
The baseline ImPACT tests are administered at the beginning of every school year to student athletes. Check with your child's coach to make sure your kid takes the test.