Count Palmerton Area School District among the latest who may participate in a program that tests athletes for sports-related concussions.

Mark Brayford, DO, ATC, Medical Director, OAA Concussion Program, OAA Orthopedic Specialists, gave a presentation at a committee workshop of the school board earlier this week.

Brayford said his company now offers a free program known as ImPACT that tests athletes for sports-related concussions.

In response to an increase in the number and severity of concussions each year, Brayford said many of the professional sports leagues have adopted ImPACT testing.

He said ImPACT testing is a neurocognitive test developed for the management of sports-related concussions.

In partnership with high school coaches and athletic directors, Brayford said OAA Orthopedic Specialists offer ImPACT testing for athletes free of charge.

He said ImPACT is a computer-based program that would be administered at the high school by OAA's ImPACT-certified staff.

A 20-30 minute computer-based test is performed at the high school to determine a child's regular brain function, Brayford said. In the event of a concussion, the test allows a comparison of the post-concussion brain function of the athlete.

Brayford said the baseline test is used to objectively evaluate the concussed athlete's postinjury condition and track recovery for safe return to play, thus preventing the cumulative effects of concussion.

Before the athlete's post-concussion release to participate in sports, the athlete's neurocognitive function would need to return to these baseline scores, he said.

If the athlete doesn't sustain a concussion, then there are no follow-up tests," Brayford said. Once the athlete sustains a concussion, he/she would be evaluated by either a team physician or a member of OAA's ImPACT-certified staff, he said.

Once an athlete is symptom-free, arrangements are made for a postinjury impact test. The test, along with physical exam findings, determine the athlete's ability to safely return to sports participation, Brayford said.

He said the follow-up impact test and the physical exam would likely take place at OAA's medical offices. A follow-up ImPACT test alone can be performed at the high school, Brayford said.

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association has established guidelines for the management of concussions; however, they haven't mandated neurocognitive testing, he said.

Brayford said parents can choose to not have their child be tested. However, in the event the child experiences a concussion, the parents are responsible for their child to be evaluated through their own health care provider, as OAA will not evaluate or clear athletes who do not have baseline tests performed, he said.

As a service to high schools, Brayford said OAA offers the baseline test at no charge. If needed, the subsequent evaluation and testing would likely be performed at their convenience as part of an OAA office visit, he said.

Several parents in the audience implored the board to consider the program, a request the board appeared to heed.

"This puts a lot of those questions to rest," said board President Barry Scherer. "Not one of our student athletes isn't important enough for us to not do this."

It was agreed that the program will be listed as an agenda item when the board meets at 7 p.m. March 15.

For more information, visit www.impacttest.com [1].