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Published on March 07, 2012

CKHS Doctors and Concussion Testing Key to Football Championship

Springfield, PA - In the inaugural season of St. Mary Magdalen’s 5th and 6th grade CYO football team, preseason ImPACT testing proved to be vital in the Hawks’ road to becoming champions.

Prior to the 2011 5th and 6th grade JV football season, coach John Feehery, M.D., chief of the Section of Otolaryngology at Taylor Hospital, teamed up with Premier Orthopedics sports medicine physician Eric Lake, D.O., to administer baseline ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) tests as a precaution to help diagnose possible head injuries suffered during the season. This testing helped 11-year-old offensive and defensive lineman Luke Keith receive the proper treatment to get him back on the field before season’s end.

During a regular-season game at Cardinal O’Hara High School, Luke was on the wrong end of a double-team block resulting in helmet-to-helmet contact that left him with persistent lightheadedness and dizziness. After being assessed by Coach Feehery, Luke spent the rest of the game on the bench. “Luke did not lose consciousness and answered all questions appropriately on the sidelines, but his processing and response time were definitely delayed,” Feehery says.

While participating in post-game handshakes and the ride home from the game, Luke still showed signs and symptoms of a concussion. Later that night, Luke’s mother, Marie Keith, made an appointment with Dr. Lake for the next day.

A subsequent ImPACT test was performed by Dr. Lake and when he compared it to the baseline test from earlier in the year, it confirmed that Luke had suffered a concussion. “This was very eye-opening to me as a mother,” Marie Keith says. “This probably would have been something I missed if it wasn’t for the baseline testing.” Luke was kept out for 30 days, but that was shortened to 3 weeks after a follow-up test.

“We kept Luke out of practice and games until Dr. Lake cleared him to restart activity,” Feehery says. “Saint Mary Magdalen and Dr. Lake followed a gradual return-to-play strategy over the course of a week before Luke returned to full contact. He actually regained his abilities and was an integral part of our team as we challenged for and eventually won the league championship.”

Kathy Comerer, who works as a nurse in Feehery’s medical practice, assisted both Feehery and Lake in the concussion testing program at St. Mary Magdalen. Comerer already had experience in concussion testing with her son who played football at St. Joe’s Prep, where baseline and subsequent concussion testing was conducted as an essential part of training. “I was very excited when Dr. Feehery asked me to help with the concussion testing for his young football team,” says Comerer. “I feel that utilizing the concussion testing program at an earlier age will help prevent long-term brain injuries that are now prevalent in football. Looking back at the years that my son and his friends played football in grade school, having concussion testing would have been a very valuable asset. We need to educate parents and coaches on the importance of concussions.”

“Dr. Feehery and I are working together to increase concussion awareness, especially at the middle school level,” Lake says. “We have had some success with this. The ImPACT neurocognitive test helps assist us with athletic return-to-play decisions, and helps reduce the chance of a more serious injury. We hope everyone's outcome is as good as Luke’s.”

Crozer-Keystone Health System also offers ImPACT concussion testing--at the Healthplex Sports Concussion Management Center, located in Springfield. The Sports Concussion Management Center offers a full range of services to diagnose and treat sports concussions.

"It's worth it to sit some time out of the game,” Luke says. “The brain has to heal. No player who loves the game wants to hear that news, but it's the best thing. I was just glad I could be back for the playoffs, which we won!"

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