Concussion program protects youth brains |

Concussion program protects youth brains

Derek Maiolo
Kiwanis Club members Don Jones and Craig Eckroth presented a $500 check to Dave Pike, Parks and Recreation Director for the City of Craig, this week to cover the cost of concussion tests for participants of Doak Walker football. Eckroth, doctor of optometry, recommended the tests to better recognize when young athletes sustain concussions while playing sports.
Lauren Blair

While getting a hard hit to the head during a football play or falling down during a soccer game is one of the last things young, developing brains need, such injuries are inevitable in the sports world.

According to the Journal of Athletic Training, sports are the second leading cause of traumatic brain injury for people ages 15 to 24 years, trumped only by motor vehicle crashes. With concussions representing 8.9 percent of those head injuries, ensuring young players stay healthy can be difficult.

Craig Eckroth, an optometrist at Eyecare Specialties, introduced the King-Devick Test to local sports teams as a way of increasing the accuracy of concussion detection. The test, he said, is one of the easiest clinically-approved concussion tests in use.

“It’s as simple as knowing how to operate a stopwatch,” Eckroth said.

The test consists of a series of numbers arranged in a certain order on an index card or iPad. Players are given two baseline tests at the start of the season during which their ability to read the numbers is timed by a trained supervisor. When a suspected head injury occurs during a game or practice, players are given the test again. If the time is slower than their baseline score, then the players receive further evaluation to determine if they are able to return to play or need further treatment.

The test is used as a supplement to other tools coaches have to determine if a player should be pulled from play. Unidentified concussions can pose serious threats to players’ safety. Secondary impact syndrome, which occurs when a player with an unhealed concussion is hit again, can result in serious injury and even death.

Concussion detection can never be completely accurate, but Eckroth said the King-Devick test has shown to be 80 percent accurate when used as a standalone test. When used with other tests, the accuracy level approaches 100 percent.

Eckroth first brought the test to the local hockey team. After training the team’s coaches and running the first round of baseline tests, Eckroth said he received positive feedback from the team.

“The coaches have already utilized it to detect a few suspected concussions,” he said.

As the Doak Walker football season approached, Eckroth met with Craig Parks & Recreation director Dave Pike to see if the test could be helpful for the young athletes. Since then, the teams’ coaches have been trained to administer the test, and all of the players have received their baseline tests. Pike said utilizing another test increase the accuracy of concussion detection and keeps players safe.

“It’s a lot easier to recognize if someone may have a concussion or not by administering this test,” he said.

The Craig Kiwanis Club — a group on which Eckroth is a member — has donated $500 to the Parks & Recreation department to pay for the Doak Walker league’s King-Devick tests to ensure coaches have the necessary materials.

“Our philanthropy is to help support children,” Eckroth said of the Kiwanis Club. “Everyone felt this was an appropriate cause.”

Eckroth is now working with coaches and trainers from the middle school football to implement the test there as well. While Marshall Kraker, the district’s athletic trainer through The Memorial Hospital, is professionally trained and certified to diagnose concussions, most of his time is spent with the Moffat County High School football team. He said the test will help to ensure players receive accurate concussion testing even when he cannot be present.

“It’s great to have another tool,” he said. “There will be concussions in sports, but it should not take away from the nature of sport.”

The Kiwanis Club is committed to fund the Craig Middle School team as well to ensure the implementation goes smoothly.

Both Eckroth and Kraker want to see the test being implemented in all of the district’s sports. They said coaches aren’t the only ones he wants to train to administer the test. Parents who become qualified to identify concussions can monitor their children’s behavior at home and be aware of changes in their behavior or physical ability which may be the result of an unidentified concussion.

The test is not just useful for those involved in sports. Eckroth has been administering King-Devick baseline tests to all of his school-age patients at Eyecare Specialties for the past year. Children not involved in an organized sport may still receive head injuries. By giving all children the test, Eckroth said they can receive the same attention a coach or trainer gives to players.

“Everyone is susceptible to concussions,” Eckroth said.

In order to learn more about the test, visit

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