Baseline Testing Helps Alles Get Cleared From Concussion

Jake Alles remembers going for a ball during a futsal game for the Lehigh Valley United Development Academy’s 2002 Boys Black team last year.

“I got tripped and hit my head on another player’s knee,” he said.

Dave Keeler, the St. Luke’s Certified Athletic Trainer assigned to LVU, immediately evaluated Jake and determined he was showing some symptoms of a concussion and removed him from the game.

“When he woke up the next day, he was still having those symptoms and we put him into concussion protocol,” Keeler said.

All LVU DA players go through computerized ImPACT testing (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) to establish baseline scores of cognitive functioning, memory and other brain functions when they are healthy to establish a baseline state of cognitive functioning.

After undergoing a suspected head injury or concussion, athletes re-take the ImPACT test to see how closely they match that baseline.

If they are far off the baseline result, rest is recommended. Once they are close to or achieve that baseline result, they can begin return-to-play protocol, which starts out with light exercise, gradually progressing to longer periods, and then to more exertive exercise for up to an hour before return-to-play is advised.

Jake, currently a freshman at Pleasant Valley High School, saw Dr. Celestine A. Nnaeto, a Sports Medicine Family Medicine specialist at St. Luke’s, who recommended Jake abstain from school, television and video games for a few days to remove unnecessary neural stimulation and promote healing.

After about three weeks of recovery, Jake finally reached baseline status and was cleared for the return-to-play protocol, going through about a week of mild training to monitor his readiness.

Jake called it frustrating because he was missing practice, but there are bigger issues when it comes to head injuries than participating in practices and games.

“With Jake being diagnosed right away on the field by a St. Luke’s Athletic Trainer – and the league mandates a trainer – it’s not left up to the coach’s best guest,” said Greg Ramos, director of operations for LVU and Jake’s coach at the time.

“You get a real medical expert in real time to do what is best for the player, and then the follow ups. Having access to St. Luke’s Athletic Trainers on site gives a level of attention to the player that is beyond what a coach can do. It gives parents and coaches a feeling of confidence that when they’re playing soccer here at LVU, the kids are in safe hands.”

LVU is ahead of the curve on conducting baseline testing for its DA players, something Ramos thinks will be the norm for all of soccer in the near future

“Being on the cutting edge like we try to be, by being overly cautious today, we’re helping to educate our parents and players,” Ramos said.  “Going forward, this will be the standard.”