It’s back to school time, and that means school sports, but kids who play, always run the risk of injury.

Now the need to protect their brains is greater than ever and there’s a new tool that’s helping.

Physical therapists administer baseline testing to athletes before the season begins.

Some athletes face a higher risk of concussions and it’s especially important for them to prevent secondary concussions.

“Second impact syndrome is when you have a second head injury probably immediately following the first and there’s actually brain swell that occurs and it can kill the person,” physical therapist Audrey Paslow said.

The old phrase, having your bell rung is a warning signal to get that athlete off the field.

As doctors explain, neuro-cognitive testing done after an athlete suffers a concussion is good at determining recovery.

But the balance testing adds another layer of information.

By determining a child’s balance abilities before injury, their balance can be measured post-concussion to help determine when their brains have fully healed.

“So if you’re interviewing someone, if you’re just asking them a couple of questions on the sidelines and you’re doing some of the neuro cognitive testing, right now studies show 65% sensitivity in terms of identifying the symptoms that we’re looking for. Does this person have a concussion of do they not. But if we add a balance testing it becomes 92% sensitive,” Paslow said.

Students are put through their paces with eyes closed. They balance first with their feet together, then on one leg and finally one foot in front of the other.

Then they’ll do it all again on a softer surface simulating the turf most kids play on.

As doctors point out concussions can increase your risk for further injury because balance is compromised.

“Signs and symptoms of a concussion can sometimes take anywhere from 24 to 72 hours to fully develop. So that’s why we don’t want to miss these things and put these children at risk for a second impact,” Paslow said.

The neuro balance test is recommended at the start of each sport season by the NCAA.

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