CHASKA, Minn. (WCCO) — Serious injuries are an unfortunate part of school sports, but efforts are under way in Minnesota to protect young athletes from long-term damage.
Each year, an estimated 50,000 concussions are reported in the state from sports or recreation-related incidents, according to the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance.
That’s why many school districts are taking more preventative measures.
Just hours before their first soccer game of the season in Chaska, two 14-year-old players named Omar and Alex had to first give their full attention to a computer screen.
They were being tested on their focus and their memory now when they’re not injured, so there can be a comparison later if they are.
“A player getting injured is not really good,” said Alex, “so making sure you have a good memory and vision is really good for the team.”
The Eastern Carver County School District is in its third year of offering the tests on site. The district has a contract with St. Francis Rehab to do the testing.
“For our school here we make it mandatory to have a baseline test before their first game or scrimmage,” said Christina Degler, a certified athletic trainer for St. Francis.
It’s about a 20-minute test, featuring words and shapes that the player will have to remember later.
In Minnesota, it’s now a requirement that any athlete under 18 be removed from the game, if they’re showing signs of a concussion.
They can’t compete again until a medical professional has cleared them.
For those who doubt the seriousness of concussions, this test can be an eye-opener.
“So this is a great tool that we have to say, ‘Well, this is where your child was at baseline without injury,’” said Degler. “’Your child had a hit to the head and this is where they are, and they’re experiencing these symptoms.'”
The state doesn’t require districts to offer these tests.
In the Minneapolis Public School District, it’s been studied, and some testing has taken place, but not district wide.
District officials say it’s something they may offer in the future.