Penguins Foundation Starts Concussion Testing Program For Youth

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — In hockey, concussions, or disruptions in brain function after a blow to the head, are common.

“It was our last season game and I didn’t see the kid and he came out of nowhere and just elbowed me in the head,” Gage Niedermeyer, a youth hockey player from Bethel Park, said.

“We see anywhere between 5 to 10 percent of hockey players will sustain a concussion per year,” Dr. Michael Collins of UPMC Sports Medicine said.

The parents of youth hockey players are often thinking about concussions.

“This was a mission we need to set out on,” Dave Soltesz of the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation said. “The questions were overwhelming.”

After half a year of planning, the Penguins Foundation announced a new program called “Heads Up Pittsburgh.”

Protecting the brains of young hockey players is on the minds of the Penguins Foundation, UPMC Sports Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In a program that’s the first of its kind, these young players can get a first step in concussion care, even before their first injury.

Six thousand youth hockey league players in the area will have free concussion baseline testing. This starts May 1st at UPMC Sports Medicine on the South Side.

“The only way to measure a concussion is to put the brain to work. You can’t see concussion with a CT scan or MRI,” Dr. Collins said.

Baseline testing, which is done even before a concussion occurs, involves an examination of balance, exertion, vision, sensation and computer testing of thinking function. This can be used as a comparison after a concussion to determine how impaired a player is.

Close monitoring and complete recovery after concussion before returning to play helps to prevent serious complications.

“You’re going to lessen the recovery time for these kids, they’re going to able to get back to hockey sooner,” Dr. Collins said. “You want to make sure when you have a concussion you get managed carefully and you see the clinician who can do the right kinds of tests and that’s what we do here.”

“I think it’s a good idea. I think it’ll help a lot of kids,” Niedermeyer said.

The program is expected to be mandatory for the upcoming season. If a player has a concussion during hockey, they can be seen as a patient for follow-up and comparison to their baseline test. However, that would be a regular doctor’s visit and not free or covered by the program.

To register your child for the program, visit:

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Penguins Foundation: Heads Up Pittsburgh
UPMC: Hockey Baseline Testing Program

  • Susan

    I believe that a concussion can be a serious condition, but the diagnosis and treatment of concussions has gone way past what would be considered normal and appropriate recovery. Kids today are missing a lot of school work and opportunities due to siding with caution and not common sense. These base-line tests are not a bad idea, but one test, one time is not enough information to determine ever if a child has a concussion based on one base line test. More information should be gathered before a child is sidelined in life.

    • Susan T

      Having a child who was out of school for 6 weeks and did not finish her junior year at her high school because of a concussion I have a little more experience with this. Everyone should ask their school because most of the schools do have that option for every sport. And it is FREE!!! My daughter hit a cement wall while playing basketball and could not even tell you the color green. So I do understand the importance of taking this seriously and doing what the doctors say. My daughter is completely recovered and is in her first year of college thanks to Dr. Michael Collins. I would highly recommend him to any parent. Until you have been through something like this you can’t fully understand. Susan it sounds like you have never been through this experience with a child and for that I would say consider yourself lucky. It was not fun looking at my daughter and seeing the glaze in her eyes like she did not know what was going on and the headaches she endured. When a 16 year old tells you they don’t think they can drive because of a concussion you know it is serious.

  • Cheryl

    I understand Susan’s comment. My daughter is out of school right now due to a concussion and I am concerned about what she is missing. However, I am glad that she is getting thorough treatment for her condition. When I was a teenager, these things were not diagnosed and treated this way. I was in a car accident 20 yrs ago and have had persistent headaches and dizziness since. None of the drs I have seen have been able to account for it but watching my daughter’s testing and treatment has made me realize that everything they are talking about applies to me as well. Is it possible that I have had an untreated concussion for the last 20 yrs? If so, if had I gotten the same treatment as my daughter back then would I have been able to spend the last two decades pain free instead of having a headache every day of my life? I think that a couple of months of downtime is a fair trade for a life without pain.

  • Debbie

    I agree with Cheryl. I was injuried in an auto accident last May and I am still not symptom free. Until you have a concussion and experience the symptoms you have no idea. I am back to work, but still take two medications for headaches and symptoms. I have continued on with my life and know I have to, but I am definately not the same person I was before the concussion. I have talked to so many people who had a concussion years ago who wish there was treatment available .Instead they had to suffer in silence with nobone to help them. Many were told by professionals they were fine. I can not imagine how many children and adults have suffered in silence. Thank god for Dr. Collins and the concussion program at UPMC. Because of them so many chidren and adults have had treatment. Thank you so much.

  • Bexter

    Shouldn’t we expand this to more than just one sport? What about the kids in football and even in baseball? Those are sports where kids experience concussions too.

  • sherri bular

    Will you also do testing for soccer players? I know there are a lot of concussions in soccer also. My daughter will be playing soccer in high school this fall.

  • Cheryl Ashbaugh Anwar

    It’s not just sports. Every child should have this. My daughter got injured playing with her friends at Girl Scout Camp.

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