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Sports medicine making an ImPACT
“Growth” is the main buzz word at Pope John Paul the Great High School in Dumfries as students and staff gear up for the opening of their second school year — and the athletic department leads the way with its new sports medicine program for student athletes.
The program, directed by Annemarie Francis, a certified athletic trainer, was established last year but is growing significantly with the addition of ImPACT — a licensed software program used by many professional and collegiate sports medicine programs to assess concussion and mild brain injury.
According to Francis, who is administering the program at John Paul the Great, “We gather baseline assessments on each student-athlete using the ImPACT software and reference that personalized data during another assessment when a head injury occurs on the field.”
Previously there were guidelines for return-to-play decisions involving grade scales of the concussion. Current guidelines have removed the use of grading systems and place more emphasis on proper medical evaluations and adequate recovery, according to Francis.
The data gathered by ImPACT aides the clinical evaluation of medical staff by helping quantify the injury and the level of brain function compared to baseline. “The process is similar to monitoring an athlete’s strength or velocity during rehabilitation” says Dr. Scott Ross, the team physician for John Paul the Great.
The adolescent brain is still developing, and evidence shows that it takes longer to recover than an older athlete’s. The use of ImPACT by John Paul the Great’s sports medicine team allows for a safer return-to-play decision for the athlete.
ImPACT is only one aspect of the sports medicine program at John Paul the Great. As the athletic trainer, Francis addresses the health care needs of student-athletes, including everything from immediate injury evaluation, to progressing rehabilitation within the back-to-sport contexts. This requires collaboration with family physicians, orthopedic surgeons, parents, coaches and a variety of others to insure a safe return to activities.
John Paul the Great has also been developing relationships with area physicians and others who commit to providing care. Dr. Ross, for example, recently conducted a sports physical clinic at the school to help ready student-athletes for fall play.
And, since “prevention is worth a pound of cure,” John Paul the Great employs a strength and conditioning coach, Bill Tanis, to provide guidance in the state-of-the-art weight room at the high school. Tanis integrates injury prevention tactics into team practices and workouts. “Seasonal coaches collaborate with our conditioning coach and the athletic trainer to address the specific needs of our athletes,” said Athletic Director Mark St. Germain, “because building a successful athletic program starts with developing healthy athletes capable of performing in multiple sports. High school sports have rigorous schedules, and avoidable injuries can have major short-term and long-term impacts on all involved.”
Looking forward to the competitive seasons ahead, John Paul the Great will continue to offer the 15 sports students participated in last year, but will move from junior varsity to varsity level in each sport. In addition, cross country will move from club status to a competitive sport. Other club sports will be added based on student interest among the growing student body.