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Network will track athletes' concussions

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Every sports-participant's name will go into database

By Kevin Koelling, Managing Editor

TELL CITY - Dr. Gene Ress hopes no high-school athlete in Indiana will ever again be released from medical care until a physician has determined he or she is free from any danger associated with a concussion, he said Tuesday.

A fixture on Tell City High School fields and courts, the physician is also a school-board member, and was speaking at a regular meeting of that body.

"I'm proud to say I'm one of 19 physicians" making up the Indiana Sports Concussion Network, Ress said. It will cost participating schools nothing besides entering information about athletes into a database, he explained. That effort will begin in August.

Most students are within 60 miles of one of the participating doctors, Ress said. If one suffers a concussion and sees one of them, "we check them and enter the information into the computer network and the computer helps us determine if they're ready to go back or not," he explained. Until now, determinations have been "by the seat of your pants," with lingering problems identified by a student acting "a little fuzzy, or a little dizzy when he stoops over; can he really play ball? This is very scientifically conducted to determine if it is absolutely safe for a person with a concussion to go back to playing."

Ress said he discussed the network with athletic directors at Cannelton, Perry Central, South Spencer and Heritage Hills schools, and "they committed their schools to it."

"Until a month ago there were 10 physicians involved," he said, "and now there are 19 of us. I'm proud to be part of that."

He confessed he had to get help from his nurse-practitioner, "because I don't know a thing about running computers," he said, drawing laughter from the board members.

Computer programs can help diagnose concussion-related problems, Ress explained.

"If the professional (athlete) making $947,000 a minute, if they want to go back after three concussions, OK, but we feel that our students deserve to be protected," he said.

He spoke to people in the school's computer lab who said they'd be willing to help enter information into the database, he added, "because we will have every athlete who participates in Tell City High School registered in this network."