The effects that concussions have on young athletes were overlooked for decades, but the issue is now receiving increased attention.

Schools in Maine are stepping up their focus to address the potential serious implications.

Athletic trainer Aaron Perreault of Dixfield is working in conjunction with Dr. Paul Berkner in an attempt to shed light on this issue.

Berkner, the Director of Health Services at Colby College, is also the director for the Maine Concussion Management Initiative. He and his staff have made themselves accessible through the Maine Athletic Trainers Association and the Maine Principals’ Association. 

The MCMI uses the ImPACT program, which utilizes a computer cognitive test to develop a baseline for every athlete.

Perreault is the athletic trainer for RSU 10 in addition to working for SmartCare Physical Therapy in Dixfield, and attends every home game for Mountain Valley and Dirigo. His presence has helped athletes from those schools to recognize the signs of concussions with early intervention. 

“In years past, a kid might question whether or not they had suffered a (concussion),” Perreault said. “We are now able, through the ImPACT program, to get a baseline test at the beginning of the season. Then when a student or athlete suffers a concussion or has signs and symptoms of a concussion, we can post-test them until their results come back to the baseline levels for them to return to play.”

Through this effort, a proactive approach is being taken to limit concussions and to prevent athletes from returning to action too quickly.

The RSU 10 schools of Mountain Valley, Dirigo and Buckfield, along with Hebron Academy, are the only area schools among 42 statewide listed as participants in the ImPACT program through MCMI.

Football and soccer athletes suffer concussions at a higher rate than most other high school sports. Mountain Valley and Dirigo each purchased new football helmets this year. 

“Although it should be noted that there is no helmet on the market that will prevent a concussion 100 percent,” Perreault said. “The schools are doing everything they can to give the student athletes the best equipment possible.  That being stated, technique is still the variable here that we can not control.”

In another example of preventive measures, Dirigo soccer player Aylssa Wade wears a foam-padded headband that is designed to soften the blow of a soccer ball. Last fall, Wade lost consciousness and suffered a concussion. Her doctor told her to either wear the $40 head gear stop playing soccer.

A concussion is a jostling of the brain that can be caused by a direct blow or even a sudden stop. It doesn’t necessarily cause unconsciousness, but symptoms can include headaches, nausea, dizziness, sensitivity to light and noise and trouble concentrating.

If sustained repeatedly over time, even a mild concussion can have a cumulative effect and lead to long-term brain damage.


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