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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Woodland Hills is a perennial western Pennsylvania football powerhouse.
George Novak, the school’s football coach, has become cautious over the years about head injuries and concussions.
“If someone gets a head injury during the game, they don’t go back in the game, and they don’t go back in until the doctor sees him and they’re looked at again,” Novak said.
This year, every Woodland Hills player will take a computer test measuring memory and brain function. If a player has a head injury, he’ll have to match or better his score before playing again.
“I don’t think it’s a perfect world yet,” Novak said. “Most trainers and doctors, ‘It’s the best we have right now.’“
The baseline test is now the best defense against long-term brain injury after a concussion, but a Purdue University study has raised new concerns, finding players who suffered brain impairments who were thought to be concussion free.
Purdue wired the helmets of a local football team with censors which sent the force of every hit to a sideline computer. Each player took an average 1,800 hits during the season. Compared to their baseline tests, several players who showed no signs of concussion were found to have brain impairments which researchers believe came from the sheer number of hits.
“Those players remain on the field, continue to take blows to the head and maybe magnify this damage or this deficit that occurs,” Purdue University Professor Larry Leverenz said.
“The question that comes out of that is whether or not these deficits we’re observing – these impairments – have long-term consequences,” Purdue University Professor Tom Talavage said.
The study is one more indication that our knowledge of concussion and athletic brain injury is in many ways still in its infancy.
Dr. Michael Collins, of UPMC Sports Medicine, says all the long-term data is not in, but he believes we have the ability to diagnose and treat concussions and brain injuries and to prevent long-term damage.
“I don’t feel this injury’s the bogeyman where it just pops up later in life,” he said. “We know that well-managed concussions lead to good outcomes.”