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CHI facilities teaming with Nebraska Sports Concussion Network

Grand Island, Neb. — With high school sports kicking off another season, three Catholic Health Initiatives ministries in Nebraska are teaming up through the Nebraska Sports Concussion Network (NSCN) to offer an innovative concussion testing program called the ImPACT Test™.

The NSCN was founded by Saint Elizabeth Regional Medical Center and Nebraska Orthopedic & Sports Medicine, PC, of Lincoln and invited the involvement of other medical facilities, including Saint Francis Medical Center in Grand Island and Good Samaritan Hospital in Kearney, to offer and fund the program in other areas of Nebraska. Saint Francis is entering its second year in the program, while Good Samaritan Hospital will debut it this year.

Saint Elizabeth started its program in 2010 with 50 participating schools. That number has grown to 150 schools and Saint Elizabeth has provided more than 15,000 baseline tests since the program’s inception.

Scott Haas, who works in Physician Relations at Saint Elizabeth, said it has been gratifying to be a part of a program that is so important to the health and safety of young athletes across the state.

“When we began in 2010, we knew that providing the baseline tests would be important,” Haas said. “What is equally important, and, I believe the key to the success of the program, has been the interest and participation from physicians across the state.”

Haas said that since 2010, nearly 300 physicians attended one of the training seminars conducted by the NSCN.

“These physicians are now better able to recognize concussions and have the necessary tools to evaluate these young athletes to make better and safer return-to-play decisions following a concussion,” Haas said. “At Saint Elizabeth, we feel fortunate to be a part of this.”

Saint Francis helped bring the program to Grand Island in 2011 with nine areas schools representing approximately 355 student-athletes participating. Of those 355 student athletes, there were 42 athletes who underwent a post-injury ImPACT test to help determine the extent of the injury. Student-athletes only need to complete the ImPACT pretest once every other year, so in this second year, only those athletes not tested last year will need to participate in the ImPACT pre-testing program.

“Our mission calls for us to improve the health of our community and we believe we are doing that with this program by improving the health of our student-athletes by providing better tools to diagnose the impact of concussions and by providing appropriate standardized data to determine when that student athlete may participate in sports again,” said Vaughn Minton, Saint Francis Strategic Planning director. “This has just been the right thing to do.”

This year, Good Samaritan Hospital will join in a big way, sponsoring 28 schools with an estimated 2,000 students that will undergo IMPACT testing. Good Samaritan has provided physician training to roughly 30 physicians in its region and has had two training sessions for coaches with nearly 80 coaches attending.

Joe Debban, Trauma outreach coordinator at Good Samaritan Hospital, said the program has been exceptionally well-received by everyone.

“I have spoken with parents, athletes, coaches, sports trainers and physicians and they all agree that our unified approach to concussion management is one that will stand the best chance of being successful and keeping our young athletes safe,” Debban said. “The schools have been pleased with the program because it keeps them compliant with new concussion legislation, it protects their children from injury while also having Good Samaritan bear much of the financial burden.

“In fact, our program has been so successful that we have had schools in Kansas approach us about joining our network here in Nebraska.”

Todd Goshorn, a physical therapist with Grand Island Physical Therapy who has used ImPACT for the past few years at Grand Island Senior High, said concussions are by far one of the most important injuries and this tool takes the guesswork out of making a return to play decision.

“Parents of athletes in the surrounding area schools that are using ImPACT should feel confident that the cognitive health of their sons and daughters is being safely evaluated,” Goshorn said. “They should also thank Saint Francis and the Nebraska Sports Concussion Network and their school in taking this important step in the well-being of their athlete.”

For athletes who participate in sports that risk sport-related concussion, the NSCN provides a neurocognitive baseline test that provides data assessing brain function that can be used to better manage a concussion should such an injury occur.

“Symptoms are not always definite and the decision to allow an individual to return to activity is not always clear and that is where ImPACT’s data will help us,” said Dr. Daniel Tomes, a neurosurgeon and medical director of the Nebraska Sports Concussion Network. “Most athletes who experience an initial concussion can recover completely as long as they are not returned to exertion or contact play too soon. Research clearly shows that the effects of repeated concussions are cumulative.

“A concussed athlete whose injury is not managed properly and who returns to play too soon before the brain has had time to heal is at greater risk for further, more serious injury, and that is a road you never want to travel.”

About Catholic Health Initiatives

Saint Francis Medical Center is part of Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI), a national nonprofit health organization with headquarters in Denver. The faith-based system operates in 19 states and includes 73 hospitals; 40 long-term care, assisted- and residential-living facilities; two community health-services organizations; and home health agencies. In fiscal year 2010, CHI provided nearly $590 million in charity care and community benefit, including services for the poor, free clinics, education and research.