Skip to Navigation
University of Pittsburgh
Print This Page Print this pages

September 14, 2000

UPMC program to target sports-related concussions

Each year, as many as one in 10 athletes competing in contact sports nationwide suffer concussions, according to sports medicine studies. And post-concussion evaluations have involved some guesswork, experts say.

Last week, the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine announced a new program that will focus on the diagnosis and management of sports-related concussions in athletes at all levels.

Mark Lovell, a nationally renowned sports concussion researcher who oversees the neuropsychological testing programs for the National Football League and the National Hockey League, was named director of the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine Concussion Program.

Lovell joins other sports concussion experts at UPMC, including Joseph Maroon, professor and a vice chairman of neurosurgery at the School of Medicine and team neurosurgeon for the Pittsburgh Steelers; Charles Burke, assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery, team physician for the Pittsburgh Penguins, founder and director of the National Hockey League Concussion Program and president of the NHL Team Physician Society, and Michael Collins, who recently completed a neuropsychology fellowship at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, where he conducted two multi-site studies involving concussion effects and return-to-play evaluation methods.

According to Lovell, "Following a concussion, there is a period of change in brain function that may last anywhere from 24 hours to 10 days. Researchers believe that during this period, the brain is vulnerable to more severe or permanent injury. In other words, if an athlete sustains a second concussion during this period, the risk of permanent brain injury increases; thus, the importance of developing methods of accurate post-concussion evaluation."

Lovell and Maroon, working with colleagues at the Henry Ford Health System, have spent five years developing the first computerized testing system to evaluate the severity of concussions in athletes and provide a more accurate determination of when the athlete can safely return to active contact sports. ImPACT (Immediate Post-concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) is being used by the Pittsburgh Steelers for the first time this season and by several college and high school sports teams around the country as part of studies funded by the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the National Academy of Neuropsychology.

ImPACT involves collecting pre-season baseline data on an athlete's neurocognitive state by having the athlete take a 20-minute computerized test that measures brain processing, speed, memory and visual motor skills. Athletes experiencing concussions during the season are re-tested and the post-concussion data is compared to the baseline data.

"Locally, the ImPACT program will provide an outstanding service to our high school athletes, who now will have immediate access to the prevention and management services in the ImPACT program," said Larry Grollman, director of sports medicine at UPMC.

In addition to concussion evaluation, the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine Concussion Program will concentrate efforts on other aspects of concussion management, including education and prevention.

Filed under: Feature,Volume 33 Issue 2

Leave a Reply