His study of 54 high school hockey players and other contact-sports athletes in New England who suffered concussions indicated more than a quarter of the athletes were cleared to return to play too soon, said Neal McGrath, neuropsychologist and clinical director of Sports Concussion New England.
In a study co-authored by three researchers and clinicians affiliated with UPMC's Sports Medicine Concussion Program, Mr. McGrath recommended that athletes undergo post-exertion neurocognitive testing before being cleared to return to play.
Although all of the athletes reported being symptom-free, 15 displayed cognitive decline in at least one area after moderate physical exertion, according to the study, published in the January issue of the journal Brain Injury.
Their speed and reaction scores were normal, but these athletes scored significantly lower on the ImPACT test than they should have if they had recovered fully.
ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) is the computerized neurocognitive test developed by UPMC's Sports Medicine Concussion Program.
Neurocognitive tests soon after exercising determine whether an athlete's concussion -- particularly to the vestibular system that integrates balance, vision and spatial function -- is fully recovered, said study co-author Michael "Micky" Collins, executive director of the UPMC program.
Other UPMC researchers who took part in the study were Anthony Kontos, assistant research director, and researcher R.J. Elbin.
Also participating was Mark Lovell, founding director of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program, now director of ImPACT Technologies.
Correction, posted March 21, 2013: Text was corrected to add contact-sports athletes to description of participants in the study reported in Brain Injury.health
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