Doctors encourage concussion pre-season testing for student athletes

Posted at 12:43 AM, Aug 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-15 09:12:00-04

It's the fear of every athlete and their parents; a concussion. As a new school year approaches, more parents and doctors are taking a proactive approach, testing before the injury.

While the word 'concussion' is scary, the news is good. They were down 11 percent in Michigan's athletes last year and doctors hope this new approach to testing could continue to reduce the number of injuries.

Dr. Jeffery Kutcher is a national concussion expert and author of the book "Back in the Game." He works out of the Sports Neurology Clinic at the Core Institute in Brighton.

He's encouraging football, soccer, hockey and cheerleading athletes to see a doctor even before a suspected injury. He calls it pre-season testing.

"I think right now we have a very reactionary approach to nuerological injuries in sports, we want to have a pro-active approach," says Dr. Kutcher.

By bringing your child in before the season begin...

"We get information that we can use to help if that person is suspected to be injured to help return to play safely during the season," explains Dr. Kutcher.

A number of medical centers and hospitals in metro Detroit have teamed up with high schools to offer similar testing, often referred to as baseline testing. Dr. Kutcher says his approach is different...

"We take it one step further, and a very important step, by taking athletes and having them perform athletic tasks and examining them during and after these tasks. Because we can challenge the nervous system to understand whether it's working normally under stressful situations, we then have a series of tests that can give us a complete picture of how each individual brain is working."

By monitoring the student's brain throughout the season, the doctor can track function and even catch injuries and he stresses that the end of the season is just as important as the beginning.

"These athletes are taking hits throughout the course of the season, therefore it's important to have their brain health evaluated at the end of the season to evaluate, ok you haven’t had a concussion but have their been any effects over the course of the season of you playing the sport," says Dr. Kutcher.

The CDC recommends doing a baseline or preseason test once every two years. Dr. Kutcher's approach involves screening more often throughout the season. He says the majority of the screening is covered by most insurance companies.