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Brain Activity Tests Help Doctors Detect Severity Of Sports-Related Concussions

Posted August 16, 2002

— Brain injuries can occur in many sports.

Players in the National Hockey League are required to wear helmets, but concussions are part of the game.

As Carolina Hurricanes hopefuls show off their skills at rookie camp this week, they are also undergoing neuro-testing at WakeMed.

The NHL requires players to take a series of tests that measure brain activity.

"Such functions as attention and memory and recall and learning, because those cognitive functions are sensitive to the effects of a concussion," said George Fowles, Ed.D., WakeMed chief neuropsychologist.

Rookie Anthony Battaglia, whose brother Bates plays for the Hurricanes, thinks anything that will help players recover from a concussion is a good idea.

"You never really want to get one, obviously," he said.

When an injury does occur, neuropsychologists give the player the same test within 24 hours.

"Usually we see them the day after the game," Fowles said.

The results are compared with previous test results to see how severe the concussion is and when the player can return to the ice.

"If a player returns too soon, the brain is kind of in a compromised state and a second concussion could be very serious and sometimes deadly," Fowles said.

Most NFL teams test their players. The program is also catching on at the college and high school levels.

Experts said the tests are a good idea in any sport where players get knocked around.

Several concussions spread out over time can also impair brain function. Fowles said neuropsychological testing can be helpful in monitoring those cases as well.

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