Chris Collins
The Baker City Herald

By Lisa Britton

For the Baker City Herald

Molly McCrary closes her eyes and lifts one foot.

She sways, but keeps her balance, for the full 20 seconds.

Next comes the coordination test, then a memory recall of words she heard several minutes before.

When she's finished, McCrary runs back to join her soccer teammates as Kim Zinn, a physical therapist and athletic trainer, jots notes.

This exercise is called a SCAT2 - Sport Concussion Assessment Tool 2.

The idea is to establish a baseline in the case of a concussion during the sports season - the numbers gathered here, on the practice field when athletes feel fine, can be measured against tests done if a head injury occurs during a game.

Dr. Melissa Knutson from St. Alphonsus Medical Group-Baker Clinic, along with physician assistants and physical and occupational therapists from St. Alphonsus and Baker Valley Physical Therapy, performed these baseline tests for the Baker High School football and soccer teams during the past two weeks.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury resulting from any blow to the head.

It may or may not cause a loss of consciousness.

Signs and symptoms include:

andbull; headache

andbull; visual problems

andbull; difficulty concentrating and remembering

andbull; sadness

andbull; drowsiness

andbull; nausea

andbull; nervousness

andbull; difficulty falling asleep

andbull; vomiting

andbull; sensitivity to light/noise

andbull; feeling "foggy"

andbull; balance problems

andbull; dizziness

andbull; irritability

andbull; depression

andbull; abnormal sleep patterns

Sports at the highest risk for concussion are football, girl's soccer, wrestling, boy's soccer, basketball, softball, baseball and volleyball.

Zinn said medical experts have determined that child and adolescent athletes are more likely to have adelayed onset of symptoms and may take longer to recover from a concussion than adults.

Treatment includes physical and cognitive rest, a gradual exercise program once symptom-free, and medical clearance.

watching for Second-Impact Syndrome

Another aspect of concussions is called Second-Impact Syndrome (SIS). This happens when a person suffers a second concussion before symptoms from the first have cleared, and causes the brain to swell rapidly.

To prevent SIS, which can be deadly, the Youth Concussion Safety Law was passed in 2009. This law has two parts:

andbull; A player must not return to play the same day they suffer a concussion

andbull; The player must be symptom free AND have a medical release stating they can return to playing their sport.

Coaches will have the SCAT2 symptom evaluation form so they can test an athlete immediately in a sideline assessment.

The baseline SCAT2 forms completed this month will be available at Knutson's office and from Brad Dunten, BHS athletic director. In case of a concussion, an athlete's primary care physician can request the baseline to evaluate the extent of the injury.

"Local medical professionals look forward to continued collaboration with the athletes, coaches, parents and the new athletic director to help in the treatment of concussions," Zinn said.