A new state law, House Bill 2038, requires that any UIL athlete who shows signs of a concussion must be removed from competition and obtain written clearance from a physician that the concussion has healed before they are allowed to play.
“Natasha’s Law” is named after Natasha Helmick, a North Texas soccer player who suffered a concussion during a high school match. She returned to competition while still suffering the effects of a previous concussion, and today has lingering struggles with memory and mental tasks.
To help provide treatment for athletes, Texas Health Ben Hogan Sports Medicine has opened two new outpatient concussion centers on the campuses of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas and Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth. These centers are the only dedicated, multidisciplinary sports concussion clinics in North Texas, and they do not require a physician referral to be evaluated by specially trained concussion experts.
“The new law will significantly improve the way concussions are treated this fall at football games and practices across the state,” said Dr. Damond Blueitt, medical director of the new concussion clinic at Texas Health Fort Worth. “But our concern has been that there’s no system in place for these athletes to be promptly seen by a concussion specialist who can accurately determine whether the athlete may return to competition.”
A team of physicians on the hospital’s medical staff, neuropsychologists, and certified athletic trainers with expertise in managing sports concussions evaluate each person with the ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) analysis, a web-based evaluation tool that compares mental function after a sports concussion. The online testing program is used by the majority of teams in the National Football League, National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, National Hockey League, college sport programs and more than 10,000 school districts across the nation.
A new VSR balance system will help determine whether an athlete’s balance control has been impaired, which is a common post-concussion symptom. To use this, athletes step onto a plate that measures the force exerted by the feet and relays the data to a nearby computer.
The centers’ comprehensive approach to concussion care includes:
- Diagnosis and treatment for concussion;
- interpretation of ImPACT neurocognitive baseline and post-injury test results;
- interpretation of balance testing; and
- education on concussion for athletes, athletic trainers and parents