Miller begins testing

Published 10:55 am Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The National Football League (NFL) is not the only group trying to cut down the risks of concussions in football as the T.R. Miller Tiger football program is now in on the cause.

Head injuries, including concussions, particularly in the game of football, have become a subject of deep concern as of late.

T.R. Miller Tiger athletic trainer Mike Miller has brought a program to the team that can help fight the concussion battle.

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The concussion injury generally occurs when the head either accelerates rapidly and then is stopped, or is spun rapidly.

“A concussion is an injury to the brain,” Miller said. “When you get hit, the brain will bounce around on your skull and you have some bruising and swelling. That is what a concussion is in the simplest terms. In football, you are out there hitting and helmets are hitting every play. Not that it cannot happen in baseball or basketball or softball, but those players are not hitting someone on every play. You are not making contact every play.”

T.R. Miller Tiger head football coach Jamie Riggs said he is glad Miller brought this program to his attention.

“It is a big issue these days,” Riggs said. “The actual injury itself has not changed over the last 30 years, but we are just more aware of things because of the NFL. It has just filtered down from the NFL. I appreciate Mike trying to find a testing means so that we can have a baseline idea or some idea where the players are in that capacity. If we do have an injury, we will better understand where they are. These days, they want to test you and all, and this will be more an efficient way than we have had in the past.”

Miller said he wanted to bring the test to T.R. Miller and the Tiger athletes because concussions are a hot topic these days.

“Now when kids get a concussion, they have to go to the doctor and be cleared,” Miller said. “A doctor is just seeing them for the first time after they are already hurt. They don’t know how the kids are before they get hurt, so that is why we are doing the tests. The test was developed from one of the universities up in North Carolina that does a lot of research from all the NFL stuff and they developed a test. There are a couple of different tests out there, but the one we are using is best suited for our situation—price-wise and also with the facilities that we have.”

Miller said the kids have to take a baseline test to see where they are at and if they get hurt, they have to take the test again.

“They will take the test until they reach the level they were at to begin with,” Miller said. “When they take the test, it lets us see a column with their baseline score and to see if they reached that score with a yes or no. Also, it lets us know if they are within 5 percent of their baseline score. No test is fool proof, but it will give us a pretty good indication of if their brain is working like it was before they got hurt.”

Miller said the test is a simple 30-minute test and it is mostly simple tasks on a computer and it measures how long it takes the athlete to complete it and how accurate they can complete it and remember stuff.

“It is not about how smart you are, it is about how fast your brain is working,” Miller said. “Right now we are just doing football players. We see the most concussions in football and with the limited way we are able to test right now, football is a lot kids that are taking the test. We might next year expand to all athletes, but right now we are just doing football because that is where we see the most concussions.”

Right now, Miller said, T.R. Miller is the only team doing this.

“I talked to (W.S. Neal trainer) Antonio (Davis) about it, but right now it is just me and coach Riggs doing it here,” Miller said. “This is a program that pro teams and college teams are using and it costs them a whole lot more than high school teams so they give the high school teams a pretty good price.”

Miller said the test would not be the only measure for a player to play again.

“We are still going to take in account time, how long was the injury and how long did the symptoms last,” Miller said. “That is one of the ways they measure concussions is how long are things wrong. How long does one have a headache, how long is one dizzy and other things like that. This is another tool to help make another decision. Now, if a kid is feeling OK, but there number is nowhere close to where it was before, then that is something that will hold them out. But if someone is feeling OK and their numbers are pretty close, but not exact, that is something where we might let them comeback. It is not going to be the final say, but it will help us getting a better understanding of what is going on with them.”

Some of the test examples include word recognition among other series of tests.

“The first test pops up 15 words and it gives you a couple of seconds to memorize the words one at a time,” Miller said. “When you hit enter, it shows you the words, and when you see a word that was one of the 15, you hit the spacebar. The next one is with simple pictures and is like the word test. Another test is with colors. It gives you different colors and different shapes and will pop up and it will tell you the color and you hit left or right. Then it would be the shape and the colors and shapes will be flipped on you and you have to look and process it instead of going on memory.”

Another test has an answer key and it says this symbol means this number at the top and at the bottom you will have a blank one and you will have to fill it in quickly, Miller said.

“It is not hard, it’s easy,” Miller said. “But it is trying to do it fast. Then there is one that will tell you a certain letter and when you see that letter, you have to hit the space bar. It just pops them up and you are trying to see it and recognize it and hit the space bar.”

Miller said the tricky part of the test is at the end.

“You have to redo the first two test, however it does not let you see them again,” Miller said. “They just start and you have to finish the test. I have taken it multiple times and that is the hard part. You think to yourself that it is just the part you took 30 minutes ago, but it is hard.”

Miller said a lot of the bigger schools and schools that have done the tests have seen good results.

“I think Hoover and some other schools are doing the test,” Miller said. “I don’t know if it is the same type of tests, but I know they are doing stuff. The test is nothing that is going to hurt. It might not make you make a better decision, but I don’t think it is going to make you make a bad decision.”