Marshall offers baseline concussion tests for children playing sports

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With more elementary and middle school students getting involved in sports, the risk of concussion is higher than ever.

A new initiative from Marshall University’s Sports Medicine Institute hopes to help parents make smarter decisions about when to let their children keep playing after receiving a concussion.

“Before we clear them to return to playing their sport, we want to make sure they have returned to as close to their normal cognitive level as possible,” said Tom Belmaggio, coordinator of Marshall’s Sports Medicine Institute. “This testing makes that possible.”

Parents can bring their children into Marshall’s institute in Huntington and its health center in Teays Valley to get a free baseline testing. This test, which Belmaggio takes about 20 minutes on an iPad, is used to compare to a test following a child getting a concussion.

Belmaggio said Marshall already offers free baseline testing for children ages 12 and older, but it last week expanded those offerings for children ages 5 to 11. The Food and Drug Administration approved the concussion assessment for those young children in November, according to Belmaggio, the only approved assessment for that age range.

“Before this came out, we really didn’t have a solid program that children could use to get baseline concussion tested,” Belmaggio said.

Belmaggio said researchers have found that concussions are increasingly common in children ages 5 to 11.

The number of concussions for people under the age of 22 rose 500 percent from 2010-14, according to FAIR Health, a nonprofit health organization that aims to bring transparency to health care costs and health insurance information.

The majority of those concussions occurred in the fall, as high school football and youth football leagues began practicing again, according to a report from FAIR Health last year.

To schedule a free baseline test at the Marshall Sports Medicine Institute in Huntington, call 304-691-1880. To schedule a test at the health center in Teays Valley, call 304-697-6800.

Reach Jake Jarvis at jake.jarvis@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-7939, Facebook.com/newsroomjake or follow @NewsroomJake on Twitter.

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