The Crookston Eye Clinic - including Drs. Matthew Forgit, Kari Miller and Angie Smith - recently gave back to the community by contributing to RiverView Health’s Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT) program.

    The Crookston Eye Clinic - including Drs. Matthew Forgit, Kari Miller and Angie Smith - recently gave back to the community by contributing to RiverView Health’s Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT) program.

    Through the RiverView Foundation, the Crookston Eye Clinic gave financial assistance to support and further develop the program that helps determine if an athlete has suffered a concussion and keeps the individual from returning to play too soon if results indicate that a concussion has occurred.

    “There’s so much more to vision than reading black letters on an eye chart,’’ Dr. Forgit explained. “The higher visual processing and vestibular areas in our brain that can be affected by head trauma play a huge role in clear, comfortable, efficient vision that is so important for learning for our young people.  Not only are we thrilled to be a part of this but felt obligated as caring for visual systems is our passion.’’

The ImPACT Program

    ImPACT is a computerized assessment that documents an athlete’s neurocognitive functioning baseline before the sports seasons begin. If a possible concussion occurs, after the athlete has seen his or her primary caregiver, another ImPACT test is done to determine any damage since the baseline testing. The computerized program evaluates and documents multiple aspects of neurocognitive functioning, including verbal and visual memory, attention span, brain processing speed, reaction time, and post-concussion symptoms. The user-friendly injury documentation system enables medical providers and therapists to track the injury from the field and through the recovery process. An athlete is usually cleared to go back to play after favorable ImPACT results. ImPACT baseline testing is repeated every two years by participating athletes to take into account cognitive development.

    RiverView’s ImPACT team is made up of Alyssa Halley, SLP; Rhonda Salentiny, PT; and Tina Safranski, OT. Last year the team did baseline testing for approximately 300 student athletes prior to their sports seasons and ultimately conducted 50 post-concussion tests. The ImPACT testing was done in the schools of Crookston, Fertile, Red Lake Falls, and Stephen Argyle Central.

    With the support of the Crookston Eye Clinic, Safranski said she was able to complete further training on the role of an occupational therapist  in post-concussion techniques, including visual and vestibular treatments for those who have failed multiple post-tests. She shared that her additional training also granted her the tools to better understand the role of oculomotor pathology through vision therapy rehabilitation.  Safranski provides the vision portion of the concussion testing while Salentiny does the vestibular.

     “I am excited for this opportunity to work as a team  between Rehab Services, Crookston Eye Clinic, and area schools to better serve our student athletes and not only get them safely back to play but also help them return to learning,’’ Safranski shared.

Knowing when it’s OK to return

    Dr. Miller knows the ImPACT program firsthand as her family has been touched by it on a personal level.

    Both of Miller’s sons played soccer for the Crookston Pirates while in high school. In the fall of 2012, oldest son Samuel suffered a concussion early in his senior soccer season. Fortunately, Samuel had done baseline ImPACT with RiverView prior to the start of the season.

    “Had he not had the baseline concussion testing done through RiverView’s therapy department, we would not have had conclusive evidence to use in determining whether or not he could return to soccer that season,’’ Miller shared. “In my opinion, the ImPACT program was critical in my son’s recovery from a traumatic brain injury. The effects of traumatic brain injury can last a life time and I feel confident knowing that our son was allowed the time his brain needed to heal before exposing himself to further injury by returning to soccer too soon.’’

    Miller reported that her son’s return to the soccer program was delayed by about a week due to the fact that he did not meet the baseline standards shown in his pre-concussion testing.

    “The temptation is for the athlete to return more quickly than appropriate when physical symptoms like headaches, light sensitivity, and blurred vision resolve,’’ Miller stated. “However, the objective testing which measures recall, reaction time, memory, and more, reveals whether or not the athlete’s brain has recovered completely from the traumatic injury.’’

    Unfortunately, Samuel suffered a second concussion within three weeks of his initial injury.

    Again, Dr. Miller says ImPACT testing was invaluable in determining the status of Samuel’s brain injury during the recovery. Samuel’s second episode did not resolve as quickly and ended his soccer season.

    “Our family is sincerely grateful for RiverView’s ImPACT program and the benefits it provides for student athletes in the area,’’ Miller concluded.

    For more information on RiverView’s ImPACT program, call Rehab Services at 281-9463. For information on RiverView Foundation projects, contact Foundation Director Kent Bruun at 281-9249 or kbruun@riverviewhealth.org