The damaging effects of sports concussions has drawn much attention in recent years, particularly at the pro sports level.
There have been programs developed to track athletes who suffer head injuries to ensure they don't return to action too soon, threatening even greater brain damage.
These programs - referred to as ImPACT, or Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing - are already used at the high school through professional levels, but not to gauge the impact of injuries on younger athletes.
This is about to change with development of an ImPACT program for youth 5 to 11 years of age by researchers at Northern Michigan University.
The effort is being funded by NMU alumnus Mark Lovell, ImPACT co-founder and neuropsychological consultant for several professional sports organizations. Lovell contributed $50,000 to the project.
Now all that's needed to shift the effort into high gear is a study group of about 100 soccer and hockey players between the targeted ages who live within about a one-hour radius of Marquette to volunteer.
Participants will take three brief tests, including an initial baseline and follow-ups at one week and one month.
The interactive tests are administered on iPads with assistance from NMU certified athletic trainers and graduate students.
They use games to measure short- and long-term memory, motor processing speed, visual memory and reaction time.
The goal is to develop normative values that can be entered into the software system, increasing its effectiveness as a concussion management tool.
We hope parents of young soccer and hockey players will get their kids involved in the program, which could lead to better monitoring and perhaps prevention of head injuries in young athletes.
To have your child or children participate in the program, contact Maggy Moore - project supervisor and NMU professor of health, physical education and recreation - by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 227-2228.