PLANO — This trip to the hospital will be different for Sam Finlinson. The 10-year-old is getting a checkup, but it's not so much about what's not working, but rather what is working.
"Having a baseline gives us a starting spot so they can say 'this is me,'" said Jonathan Hancock, an athletic trainer at the Concussion Center at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano.
The baseline tests let physicians and trainers see how someone's brain functions normally. That data will be used as a reference if the patient later suffers a brain injury.
"To see the number of athletes that we are getting is amazing, and it's across all sports," Hancock said.
Sam will get a series of exams testing his memory and his focus, but mainly his brain. For Ashley Finlinson, his mom, this trip to the hospital was a no-brainer; her son's league coach highly recommended it.
"Why not get it done?" she asked. "It's another tool I can use as a parent to make sure my child is getting the best health care and they're getting everything they need."
Frisco ISD and many other school districts already mandate baseline testing. But leagues are also now starting to catch on.
Natasha's Law changed the scope of concussion management on the school level. It required school staff and coaches to get training on how to treat and react to students who get concussions.
While Sam was being tested on his balance, his seven-year-old brother Cal, who is also playing football, will get tested, too.
"I had no idea they could actually do it this young," their mom said. "When I talked with Jonathan he said, 'Yeah, we can do a paper-and-pen test.'"
Cal took questions that tested his memory. The results physicians and trainers get here will be compared to the data they get after any suspected brain injury. Five to seven years ago, this topic of concussion management was foreign.
"That's the culture," Hancock said. "It's changing more and more, and we're starting to realize the concussions these kids are getting are mild more than anything else, but they set the stage."
Hancock says drastic behavioral changes and difficulty concentrating are just a couple of symptoms after a brain injury. Depending on the nature of the injury, Hancock said people should seek medical attention within 96 hours.