RPS 205 will begin using new concussion baseline testing to monitor athletes

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) -- Rockford Public Schools will begin using injury-monitoring technology to better protect student-athletes. It monitors head injuries and will be a valuable tool for coaches and parents.

"If you have a concussion, a lot of times you don't look any different, you don't look like you have an injury," said Brandie Messer, DNP, RN, Doctor of Nursing Practice Program Coordinator at OSF Saint Anthony College of Nursing.

That's why Messer applied for a grant of more than $25,000 from the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois to bring concussion testing to Rockford Public Schools.

"We are going to be implementing the ImPACT baseline concussion testing for all contact sport athletes. It is a neurocognitive test that students will be able to take prior to their sport and it will test their speed, concentration, memory and reaction time," said Messer.

The computerized test takes about 20 minutes to complete. Athletes will take it the first two weeks of practice.

"This testing will be able to lay a baseline, and if they were to have an injury during their sport, we would be able to retest them within 24-48 hours and see what their deficit is," said Messer.

Students can return to a sport when their score is back to where it started.

"We have a lot more technology involved and we know a lot more about concussions and how especially over the long term they can be detrimental to human beings. So to be able to monitor concussions and get kids off the field or bring them back slowly to the classroom, whatever it is that we need to follow, we're going to do that," said Mathew Parker, the Director of Athletics for the Rockford Public Schools.

"People always equate football with concussions, but concussions happen in every sport. So no matter what the sport is, I think it gives the parents, mom's especially, an opportunity to know what's going on and feel better about us taking precautions for their children," said Gary Griffin, the Athletic Director and Head Coach at East High School.

Messer will begin a study this year on select RPS freshman football players and girls’ soccer players. She will follow those athletes over four years to document any changes in their brain from contact sports.