Jun 5, 2023 Watch Your Head!

Comprehensive concussion screening for young people is now available in Hudson County.

Nearly 7 percent of children under age 17 have had symptoms of concussion in their lifetime, according to a recent national survey. Left untreated, a concussion can lead to more serious problems, such as a greater risk of repeat concussion, or even brain damage.

Now Hudson County residents ages 5 through 18 can get the benefit of comprehensive preseason screening. Post-concussion management at the Newport Centre location of the Matthew J. Morahan III Health Assessment Center for Athletes at RWJBarnabas Health is offered for ages 12 and up.

“Our services are unique in the state of New Jersey,” says Diana Toto, MS, Director, Sports Medicine and Business Development, for the center. “We provide a comprehensive program with visual and vestibular testing, as well as an active recovery and academic program to complement the physician evaluation.” Young people can get baseline concussion testing that will assess balance and brain function. Should a concussion be suspected, this information will be invaluable in determining whether there’s an injury to the brain.

The center offers FDA-approved ImPACT Pediatric screenings, which previously were available only to those ages 10 and above. The screening process also includes cardiac testing to identify possible heart conditions that should be investigated before a young athlete hits the field, track or court.

A Personalized Plan

A child or teen with a possible concussion needs to be seen by a medical provider, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If a concussion is suspected, the child should be removed from play. The classic symptoms of a concussion, including headache, blurred vision and nausea, may not appear for hours or even days.

“People who’ve had a blow to the head and are showing concussion symptoms should have 48 hours of cognitive rest before they’re examined,” Toto says. “After that, the faster you can get your child screened, the better the outcome for their recovery. We tell our patients that we’ll get them in to be seen within 48 to 72 hours of the time they contact us.”

If a concussion is confirmed, physicians at the center will create an individualized plan for when and how the youngster can return to school and sports.

“Each case is different. Our team will identify measurable tasks for the child that won’t overstimulate the brain,” Toto says. “It’s easy to overdo and make matters worse if you don’t know how much is too much. We will provide a plan that moves at the right pace to allow the brain to heal.”

What Is a Concussion

A concussion is a blow to the head or hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. The brain may bounce or twist around in the skull, sometimes creating chemical changes in the brain and damaging brain cells.

Symptoms include headache or a feeling of pressure in the head, nausea or vomiting, balance problems or dizziness, blurred vision, difficulty thinking clearly and sensitivity to noise and light.

The Matthew J. Morahan III Health Assessment Center for Athletes at RWJBarnabas Health is open at Newport Centre, 100 Town Square Place, Suite 403, in Jersey City. To make an appointment, call 973-322-7913.