Valley medical professionals team up to promote concussion awareness

FRESNO, Calif.

There is a new way to diagnose and treat concussion patients, and Valley medical professionals are teaming up to increase awareness.

About 200 Central Valley healthcare professionals will gather to tackle the issue of kid's athletic concussions over the weekend. One of their goals is to establish a unified way to determine when it is safe to return to play after injury. And they have already won the support of at least one local family.

"His head hit the back of my head and I went face forward," Buchanan sophomore Sam Fairbanks said.

Sam suffered two concussions and several near - concussion scares while playing football in middle school.

"It was a hitting drill in practice and I just went head on with a bigger guy and don't really remember much from there," Fairbanks said.

Fairbanks says he loves the game and had hoped to play at Buchanan High School, but his parents pulled him from the sport after the last blow knocked him unconscious, and he began having trouble with his memory and concentration in school.

"We felt his brain function was more important than the game at that point so it may not have happened again, but we didn't want to take the chance," Sam's mother Karyn Fairbanks said.

Sam's concussions are why the family is behind the latest effort to implement what's called baseline and post-injury testing in all Valley schools with high-impact sports.

"It assesses the kid to get an essential baseline prior to that injury so we know when we re-administer that test following that concussion; we see a difference in the results," Brenna Hughes, a Speech Language Pathologist said.

Districts like Clovis Unified allows parents to check yes or no if they want their child to have it, but Hughes doesn't think it should be an option, because she says the tests provide important information for return-to-play decisions and help doctors manage athletes in recovery.

"There's a step-by-step process that needs to happen. It's not just one checkup and you're back in the game," Hughes said.

She's hoping to compile a list of medical professionals trained in concussion management so that families like the Fairbanks know where to turn for help.

"It seems like common sense to me because the athlete's safety is first and foremost the most important part," Hughes said.

The Department of Physical Therapy at Fresno State has the equipment to conduct baseline tests -- and the university is working on a grant to hold a testing day for kids in districts like Fresno and Clovis Unified. The chair of the department plans to speak at Saturday's symposium.

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