Matt Blackmon has had a passion for sports since the beginning. From the young age of five, Matt has been playing competitive hockey, baseball, and basketball plus enjoying highly-active hobbies such as skiing, snowboarding and Tae Kwon Do (he’s a black belt!). It’s clear that athletics have always played a significant role in Matt’s life.
But in January, while competing in a hockey game, Matt was injured and immediately hurried off the ice by the Kirkland Fire Department. He was rushed to the ER where he was examined for a concussion and back injury. Not long after, Matt was released from the hospital with a concussion. Fortunately, Matt had previously had concussion baseline testing (a preseason exam used to assess an athlete’s baseline brain function in case of injury) completed with one of our sports medicine doctors, Dr. Ty Jones, which would be helpful later on in Matt’s healing process.
While fairly common, affecting nearly 3.8 million athletes in the United States per year, concussions can be very disruptive and interfere with a student athlete’s academic, social and athletic lives. Symptoms may include headache, dizziness, nausea, vision and balance problems, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping and other frustrating symptoms. The brain needs extra rest after these injuries to heal and allow symptoms to resolve. While the brain is recovering it is more easily overwhelmed by mental and physical exertion, and returning to contact sports too early can put a recovering brain at risk for an even more significant injury or even death. Returning to school can be challenging and may require planning between the medical team, parents and the school to support the recovering student. If they can successfully “return to learn” and feel back to normal after a few days of school, athletes can slowly begin their return to their sports.
In Matt’s case, when he was feeling back to normal and able to do his schoolwork without any symptoms, he worked with the sports medicine team at Proliance Orthopedic Associates, his parents and his coach to work through a customized return-to-play protocol specific to hockey. He first demonstrated an ability to do light aerobic activity without symptoms, then advanced to skating and light resistance exercise, non-contact ice hockey drills, then finally, limited contact drills. Matt felt great and was able to perform these non-contact exercises and skills without recurrence of his concussion symptoms so he returned to the Sports Medicine clinic prior to being cleared for full contact. His doctor confirmed that his neurologic exam was normal (including Matt’s balance and visual tracking), and then computerized ImPACT (Immediate Post-concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) was performed. This is a tool that tracks memory, reaction time, and visual scores to help the sports medicine team to assure that if a student has a concussion they are back to their normal brain function before being released back to contact. Once the test showed that Matt was back to his baseline he was released back to a full contact practice. Practice went without a hitch and he was able to start at his next game.
Matt, a true comeback kid, has been doing great post-concussion and looks to finish his hockey season strong. In his first game back from his injury, he played against the best team in the league, scoring a goal and assist in the first game and a goal in the second. Matt and his family are very thankful that they had baseline testing done because it gave them and Dr. Jones what they needed to help get Matt back on the ice quickly and safely and back to the activities that he loves. According to Matt’s mother, “I highly recommend all athletes get the baseline testing done. You never know when you might need it.”
Concussion baseline testing is available with Dr. Ty Jones at Proliance Orthopedic Associates in our Renton, Covington, and Maple Valley locations. To schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic doctors, please contact us today at 425.656.5060.