August 22, 2013

Deering High adds layer to keep athletes safe

The school is participating in a pilot program designed to reaffirm a player's readiness to get back on the field after a concussion.

By Mike Lowe
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Physical contact is commonplace in high school sports, as in this football game between Deering High and Thornton Academy last year in Saco. Deering is now using two tests to determine a young athlete’s ability to play after a serious injury.

2012 Press Herald file photo/Carl D. Walsh

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Members of the Thornton Academy boys soccer team take cognitive tests at the Saco school in the summer of 2009. The testing results would provide a baseline for athletes who suffer an injury resulting in a concussion. Now, Deering High School in Portland is believed to be the first in Maine to take part in a pilot program that uses physical or “dynamic” movement to create a second baseline to assess before allowing student-athletes to play again after an injury.

2009 Press Herald file photo/Gregory Rec

In no way is OptoJump designed to replace ImPact testing, said Bardwell and Craig.

Bardwell noted that ImPact testing "would not pick up the subtle, physical, biomechanical differences (caused by a head injury). This does."

"What it comes down to is that we're measuring balancing and symmetry," he said, "how, after the hit to the head, how's their balance, how's their symmetry. But if we don't have baselines, we have nothing to compare it to."

Bardwell said some "weird stuff" has already been discovered.

Some students, when told to close their eyes, march in a tight circle. That would be their baseline and they would have to repeat that before returning from a concussion.

Dan Boothby, the strength and conditioning coach at Northeastern, said the university still uses the ImPact test as the baseline for athletes to return from concussions, while the OptoJump test provides valuable data to keep athletes safe all year.

"It allows us to collect in-depth data quickly and to see what changes in movement patterns the athletes are having over the course of a season, over the off-season," said Boothby, a 2000 graduate of Kennebunk High.

That's another thing that Deering officials like. The Rams suffered four ACL tears in football last year. They want to prevent a repeat, if possible.

Craig said the Rams are working with Bwellhealth (where Bardwell has his practice) and Port City Physical Therapy to come up with the program.

Scott Parsons, the first-year football coach at Deering, calls it "revolutionary stuff."

He is using data from the testing to format the team's conditioning programs and practice plans, "to be proactive on keeping these guys' knees in check," he said.

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

Twitter: MikeLowePPH


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