Expert instrumental in implementing concussion protocol across district
At its regular meeting July 20, 2015, the Fort Zumwalt Board of Education recognized Dr. Brandon Larkin in appreciation for his years of service in implementing the ImPACT computerized neurocognitive testing program for thousands of high school athletes to help monitor students in the event they suffer a concussion.
Beginning with football players in 2010, Larkin and the Fort Zumwalt team of athletic trainers began conducting baseline tests for freshmen and juniors. The following year all soccer players and cheerleaders were also tested.
“I think it's a testimony to the progressive nature of the district that we have had this in place as long as we have,” Larkin said.
He explained to Board members that the 25-minute computerized test looks at reaction time, memory, concentration and other components to set a baseline that is used should a player suffer a concussion. He also explained that it is re-administered before junior year to set a new baseline because of the brain development that happens in those two years as teens mature.
“Since 2010, we have baselined over 3,000 athletes and performed more than 600 individual tests,” he said. “That doesn't mean we've had 600 concussions, it means we administered that many tests. Some players undergo more than one test to be sure they are ready to play. I know you know that some players can be in a hurry to get back on the field.”
Larkin said the program isn’t a pass-fail system. The ImPACT test results are one indicator that a concussion victim has healed. “Just because their ImPACT is good doesn’t mean they get to play,” he said, adding that there are many levels to full recovery from such a brain injury and many factors to consider on a case-by-case basis.
“They happen in any sport and they don't have to be in a game,” Larkin said of concussions. “It can be in practice. We've even had some we have caught in kids who suffered their injury in car accidents.”