Braintree Student Athletes Prepare for Season with Concussion Testing
The program – known as Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing – was instituted by Braintree and other school districts last year to set a baseline for injury recovery.
Between what was accomplished at Braintree High School last year and the testing being completed prior to first contact this season, more than 800 student athletes will have undergone cognitive testing, aimed at creating a baseline for injury recovery.
The testing, known as the ImPACT Program, was put in place in Braintree and towns across Massachusetts during the winter sports season last year, spurred by heightened scrutiny of the effects of concussions on athletes from the pros down to middle and high schoolers.
Every student that plays sports at the high school, and starting this season at East and South middle schools, will take a computer-based test that measures memory, reaction time and processing speed.
School Committee members approved the program last November, around the same time that the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association required coaches take part in a concussion education course.
Braintree athletic trainer Kara Hines, who administers the tests, pushed for the program last fall, saying that even athletes participating in sports not normally associated with concussions, such as girls soccer, are vulnerable.
“We are very fortunate here that people are taking the measures to protect the safety of our student athletes," Athletic Director Mike Denise said in a recent interview.
Denise said that all high school athletes will be tested by the time they begin playing games this Wednesday. Middle school soccer and basketball players will also sit down in front of computers this year, plug in their basic information and then perform tasks like remembering which vocabulary flashes across the screen and how squiggly lines are formatted.
The testing is not just vital to knowing when kids can best return to playing, Denise said, but also to monitoring their academic performance. “First and foremost they are here to be students."
Depending on word from the Department of Public Health, Braintree may also test intramural athletes in the near future, Denise said.
Meanwhile, teams took final shape last week, cementing their rosters and working out the kinks of a schedule that includes home games that are really away for some teams.
Football will be at Stonehill College on Sept. 17 and Curry College on Sept. 24, and will play on Archbishop Williams High School's field on Oct. 1. Denise said he expects the fields to be ready by homecoming on Oct. 21.
Denise said turnout for all sports was excellent this season and he looks forward to another fun and competitive year.
"The level of participation in tryouts was off the charts, it was outstanding," he said. "What’s better than watching the kids play out there on a fall afternoon.”