Fort Payne High School has begun offering baseline concussion screens for all high school student-athletes this year.
Brian Jett, Fort Payne High School principal, said one of the things he’s proud of at FPHS is they are always looking for ways to improve athlete safety.
“After consultation with Mr. Zaremba and the staff at Rehab Partners, we came to the conclusion that a neurocognitive baseline exam was a necessity to help identify possible concussion,” Jett said.
He said the IMPACT test is a program that is utilized at all levels of competition and will be another tool to help staff identify concussive symptoms.
Kenneth R. Zaremba II, MED, LAT, ATC teacher at Fort Payne High School said they are baseline testing every single high school athlete this year regardless of sport.
“After this year,we will test only incoming freshman and current juniors,” Zaremba said.
According to Zaremba, the Center for Disease Control recommends an athlete be baseline tested once every two years, and they will follow those guidelines until there are changes.
“I feel confident that we are being proactive instead of reactive in regard to concussion management and treatment,” Jett said.
Zaremba said the National Federation of High Schools, National Athletic Trainers Association, the Alabama Athletic Trainers Association, and AHSSA recommend that all athletes have some baseline measure that can later be used to determine whether or not they have a concussion.
“With Mr. Cunningham and Mr. Jett leading the way, we at FPHS have decided to utilize an online concussion assessment tool called IMPACT,” Zaremba said.
He said the test measures reaction time, memorization skills, as well as how quickly athletes can complete specific tasks when they are not concussed.
“If we suspect a concussion they will retake the test,” said Zaremba.
According to Zaremba, if there are errors, slower reaction time, and concussion-like symptoms, among various other factors during the exam, then-current medical research supports that the athlete has sustained a concussion.
Once the information has been gathered, it can be taken to their doctor for further review.
“The athlete [doctor] and their parents can aid us in determining return to play protocols that follow guideline established by the Alabama Concussion State Law,” Zaremba said.
Fort Payne High School has offered the Sports Medicine Career Tech pathway for students for two years.
Zaremba said there is an after-school program that has also been in place for two years.
The after-school program involves primarily working with varsity football; however, they also work with almost every sports offered on campus, he said.
“I currently have 17 students who help me in the after-school sports medicine program,” he said.
Zaremba said through the vision of the administration he had upon his arrival, they were able to build two state-of-the-art sports medicine facilities on campus. These facilities have two locations, one in the gym and the other in the field house. The two facilities service all of their student-athletes, band, ROTC and other programs as needed.
Zaremba has been teaching Foundations of Health Science and Sports Medicine Intermediate for two years.
“I have been here three years in January, and I teach dual enrollment anatomy and physiology through Northeast Alabama Community College,” he said.
He also teaches advanced classes comprised of approximately 50 students this semester.
In addition to the classes, he also works with Drake Ibsen and Rehab Partners Fort Payne as their outreach ATC for Fort Payne High and Middle School.
Zaremba said his students have a wide variety of backgrounds and ambitions from pursuing a career in sports medicine to using this as an extracurricular activity for application and college resume purposes.
“I work with other programs on campus to ensure that my student athletic trainers are able to participate in as many extracurricular activities as possible,” he said.
Zaremba said this past year, the first group of students completed the sports medicine pathway.
He said his students were able to sit for the Certified CPR Instructor Course offered through Stop Heart Attack in Birmingham, Alabama.
“I am pleased to say all the students passed the course and became certified CPR instructors,” said Zaremba.