Derek, 10 Years Old, Wexford, PA

Derek, 10 Years Old, Wexford, PA

In hockey, the goalie is one of the most valuable players on the ice. He is relied on by his teammates to make save after save. When a hockey puck struck Derek, youth hockey goalie, directly to his head, he and his family relied on the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program team.

“He was caught off guard, but didn’t seem too shook up after leaving the ice,” said Derek’s mom, Sandy. “He came home, ate a bite to eat, and even did some homework.”

When Derek woke up the next morning, though, it was clear to his parents that something wasn’t right. He became agitated when they asked him questions and struggled with tasks like reading.

“He kept saying we were being too loud,” Sandy recalled.

After he refused breakfast and complained of a headache, Derek’s parents took him to the pediatrician. From there, the family was referred to the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program.

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Months before the incident, an email from Derek’s hockey team prompted Sandy to have both Derek and his older brother, Colin (also a hockey player), undergo ImPACT® baseline concussion testing through the Heads UP Pittsburgh Program.
The baseline data from the ImPACT® test is an effective tool in the comparative assessment of a person’s neurocognitive state before and after a concussion occurs. It’s what helped Vanessa Fazio, PhD, compare “typical Derek” to “concussed Derek,” and help develop the best treatment plan for him.

Some testing and timing accommodations were made at school to help Derek stay on track in the classroom while he progressed through his therapy. Since he was very sensitive to noise, and still experienced headaches, he ate lunch in private instead of the cafeteria and didn’t ride the school bus.

After four weeks, his symptoms began to improve. Derek was cleared for non-contact sports and began skating again. Soon after, he passed an exertion test, demonstrating that he was symptom free after physical activity. He was cleared to return to full-contact and got back in goal.

“I think we always understood the risk for concussion, which is why we took our sons for the baseline testing,” Sandy said. “It wasn’t until we needed to actually use that information, though, that we gained a full appreciation for the program.”


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