Better tests lead to better concussion treatment

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Central Private School Senior Mason Jordan starting playing football as a kid in a peewee league.  As a running back and linebacker in high school, he got hit a lot.

"Every play," laughed Jordan.

"The game's come a long way. These kids are stronger, they're faster, they're bigger," said his football coach Mike Longmire.

Jordan has also suffered three concussions.  The first was as a freshman.

"Going to make a tackle and me and my buddy collided head to head. That was about it," recalled Jordan. "I just remember the next day in class just throwing up."

Doctors ran a CAT scan and benched the athlete for a week.  When he suffered another concussion the following season, it was the same drill.

However, when he suffered his third - doctors had a new tool thanks to pre-season testing.

"The traditional way to diagnose a concussion is the doctor sees the patient, they take the symptoms and they do the imaging. Well, imaging is only a piece of it. Imaging shows if there is a fracture or if there is a brain bleed," explained physical therapist Erik Strahan.

According to Strahan, what the imaging tests don't show is the actual metabolic and chemical "crisis" that's going on inside the brain.

But, some new tests done on athletes before the season starts allow doctors and trainers to better diagnose concussions and treat them.

The tests measure reaction time, cognitive function and balance.  Then doctors can look at the results before, during and after a head injury.  That ensures the athlete returns to play only when he or she is completely healed.

"If an athlete returns to play too soon it can cause permanent brain damage," said Strahan.

Jordan's coach believes this testing could be a real game changer in the health of athletes.

"I've been coaching 42 years and this is the first time I've seen the testing like this to talk about concussions and I think it was very beneficial to our program," said Longmire.

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