Reggie Lambe and his Carlisle United first team teammates and the clubs Under 18 squad were put through a challenge of a different kind last week as they became one of the few clubs outside the top tier to adopt new cognitive testing procedures to assist with the assessment of recovery from head injuries, in particular concussion, using a more evidence-based approach.
It was very much a ‘back to school’ feel as the players found themselves in exam conditions to take on a series of mentally challenging questions – but all with a very serious purpose.
Dr David Millar, the Consultant Neuropsychologist who developed the testing procedure, explained: “We’re trying to encourage clubs at all levels to adopt a more evidence-based method of managing incidents of concussion by introducing procedures which have previously only been available to clubs and organisations at the upper levels of their disciplines.
Speaking more about the process, Dr Millar said: “The programme has been developed by an American company called ImPACT, and it’s a good one. We’re very pleased with it, but we’re always looking to fine tune and improve it.
“We’re delighted that Carlisle United have seen the benefits of it. As I said earlier, when it comes to the well-being of your players there is nothing more important, and we hope that it goes on to become the standard at as many levels of the game as possible.
“By working with the existing medical team at clubs, we introduce them to some of the existing technology and that puts them in a better position to manage concussions in terms of knowing when a player has fully recovered.
“These tests are nothing about removing people from play. The physio and doctor at the game still have their immediate medical assessments to do, and they will use their knowledge and experience to determine whether or not a player can continue.
“This is more about helping the medical team to determine when a player who has suffered a concussion is fit enough to return to full involvement. That’s why it’s really important to do these tests because the timescale from picking up the concussion to full recovery will be different in every case, and for every player you come across.
“By having these test results in place, you’re giving yourselves as a club a better measure for when that should be. The thing to bear in mind is that if players come back too soon it can make them more vulnerable to future concussions.”
“I have to stress that this is just one part of the evaluation process a player who has suffered from concussion needs to go through,” he concluded. “There are other clinical tests and evaluations which need to be done, but this test provides an extremely useful tool because it’s quantifiable and measurable, rather than just relying on symptoms and comments from a player who is probably really keen to get back into action.
“Hopefully the players will stay clear of concussion but, if it does happen, Carlisle United are now in a stronger position to deal with it.”