Florida Air students test motor skills before concussions occur


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Barbara Kaufman, an RN and the director of director of medical services at Florida Air Academy, has shared her concussion evaluation skills with students Moriah Ross, left, and Asheirah Bray.

Viera Voice George White

Florida Air Academy in Melbourne now tests its athletes for motor skills so it can compare the results after a possible concussion, and plans to test all 250 students by next fall.

The private school for grades 6 to 12 now administers the ImPACT (Immediate Post-concussion Assessment and Cognative Testing) computerized assessment to all students on teams such as basketball and soccer or who participate in clubs like surfing, skateboarding and lacrosse.

The computer test measures verbal and visual memory, processing speed and reaction time. It is available in multiple languages, a good feature for FAA, which has,  students from more than 20 countries.

Should a head injury occur, the student is tested soon thereafter and three days later. That information is provided to the treating physician to more accurately determine the severity of an injury.

The program already is in place at several Florida colleges, including Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne.

“We have a large number of athletes for our size,’’ said FAA school nurse, RN Barbara Kaufman.

The tests give school and medical personnel — and parents — more information to use when deciding whether a child is ready to go back on the field, Kaufman said.

“People are very determined to play and it can  be very subjective. We wanted to be proactive and establish standards,’’ she said.

The system has already demonstrated its value. Student Gianni Cacci, who had been pre-tested, suffered a severe concussion playing soccer.

“After my fall, I felt fine and believed I was ready to start training again, but an ImPACT test … revealed my reaction times were slower and some of my readings had declined. I could see clear evidence that I should rest and let myself recover before I went back on the field,’’ Cacci said.

A subsequent test showed her abilities in the normal range with no long-term damage, and she was allowed to resume non-contact training, Kaufman said.

Added Kaufman: “It’s a great tool and very objective. It gives me more authority.’’

“We consider it a unique tool in the ongoing care of the students in our care, because, after all, kids will be kids,’’ she said.

For more information, go to flair.com/impacttest. VV