as written by Melinda Roalstad
While working with the US Ski Teams from 1990-2007, there were numerous times the decision regarding whether an athlete who had suffered a concussion was ready to return to their sport at full training and competition loads. Early on, I found there were several standard guidelines established that dictated for the most part how concussions were managed in sport at the time. These were the criteria considered to be the norm and they were variable thus, if you consulted specialists regarding recommendations to return an athlete to sports involving risks for concussion, you had several different responses with no clear cut guidance as to what was safe for the long term outcome for athletes. This became very evident following a particularly severe incident with a now Gold Medalist. The recommendations were anywhere from he should never compete again to allowing his return much earlier than what was felt to be safe with respect to long term outcome. These in congruencies is what prompted my research for more objective criteria and better answers to know if it was safe for an athlete to resume their sport following concussion… While the research over the past 10 years has clearly demonstrated the unknowns with this injury, it has yielded much improved guidance and most importantly, objective tools to provide clinicians better information regarding return to sport decision making.
ImPACT was the tool I discovered in this process and found it to be incredibly helpful in providing the tangible information regarding successful recovery from concussion. The emphasis should be place on the fact that it is a valuable component as part of a multidisciplinary integrated approach involving; creating awareness in the general public, providing education at all levels with respect to proper evaluation & management, implementation of objective evaluation and coordination in management of a graduated return to sport. This tool has provided us with a mechanism to more objectively evaluate this injury, now it is up to us to implement appropriate use and follow through to yield safe management and successful outcomes.