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Researchers Get Handle On Concussion Recovery Time

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Banging the back of her head doing a one-legged pyramid at Mt. Lebanon cheerleading practice nearly a month ago left Kalee Amend with balance problems and much more.

"As time kept going on, I can't sleep at night, I'm really fatigued, I'm dizzy, I have tingling in the back of my head," she said.

On average, UPMC's concussion program sees about 15,000 patients a year.

But Kalee is a perfect candidate to benefit from a new study at UPMC's Sports Medicine concussion program.

For the first time ever, researchers are examining concussion prognoses using data from ImPACT, a computer test that measures the severity of a concussion. The test was developed at UPMC.

It is used to establish baselines for amateur and professional athletes. Now, they have a good idea how long concussion symptoms will last.

The study looked at 180 high school football players with concussions and established statistical cut-offs indicating people who take a month or longer to recover.

Dr. Mickey Collins, director of the program, says it's a game changer.

"Because now we have a way of determining within the first day or two of an injury, 'This is a kid who is at 85 percent chance to take more than a month to recover,'" he explained.

Being able to predict recovery time also helps counsel coaches and parents as to the concussion patient's specific needs as to appropriate treatment and rehab.
"This data allows us to see who needs to be treated and who doesn't," Dr. Collins said.

This is Kalee's sixth concussion in seven years, says her father, Bob Stettler.

"She's my daughter. I don't want to take away the things that she enjoys, but I fear that it could affect her down the road," he said.

But, Dr. Collins has no doubts about Kalee's future.

"Great thing is we will treat Kalee and she will be normal," he said.

And that's music to the ears of a worried dad.

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