Former UT football player, trainer back local concussion testing company

Former Vols running back Jay Graham uses Neurologic Performance Group to monitor concussions in his players.
Published: Jun. 8, 2023 at 12:11 AM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - If your kids play sports, chances are they’ve had an injury or two along the way. Obviously, you want to make sure they’re healthy before they get back in the game.

It’s even harder with brain injuries or concussions. But a Knoxville-based company is making that process easier.

Neurologic Performance Group leaders said there were only so many concussion specialists in the region, and it can be really hard to find an appointment on short notice. Plus, NPG leaders said emergency rooms and pediatricians won’t get the job done either.

“We offer piece of mind for parents,” Mark Slaughter said, President of NPG.

Slaughter said the company has a new way to bring advanced concussion testing to the sidelines of youth sporting events.

“We are the ultimate catch and release program,” he said.

Kids take a baseline test before the season starts. It’s a series of balance and memory tests on a phone app, and it captures what your healthy brain looks like.

After a brain injury, you run the same tests again to compare the results. If there’s cause for concern, NPG offers further testing at a local clinic.

Dr. Todd Abel, NPG Chief Medical Officer, is a surgeon for UT Medical Center. He said this method is better than spending thousands of dollars at the emergency room.

“In concussions, CT scans are completely unhelpful,” Abel said. “Almost everyone who has a concussion has a normal CT scan.”

He said most pediatricians don’t have a specific test for concussions either. But given all of the data from the testing, Abel called it a winning formula.

“They’re 100 times, 1,000 times more accurate than just kind of winging it,” he said.

Winging it is a thing of the past. It’s something former University of Tennessee football trainer Keith Clements knows too well.

“Our return to play protocol was somewhat nebulous, it was kind of in question,” Clements said.

Clements was with the athletic department for about a decade in the 1990′s and 2000′s. He said he did not have access to objective concussion testing in that time period.

“Unless there was a direct loss of consciousness, or some sort of egregious occurrence, we were often times pressured to go ahead and quickly assess whether they could get back out on the field,” Clements said.

He said NPG provides the objective testing that’s needed, and youth sports coaches in East Tennessee are buying in.

Jay Graham is one of those coaches. He’s the head football coach for Concord Christian School.

Vols football fans will remember his days of ripping off big runs in Neyland Stadium in the 90′s.

Graham is using NPG for his middle school football players.

“It’s very serious, and it effects every part of your life,” Graham said about brain injuries. “Making sure that we take care of something so precious is the key.”

Graham said he went through a different form of baseline tests in the NFL in the early 2000′s.

“Having that on the sidelines right now is something that’s big,” Graham said.

Abel and Clements said too many concussions can lead to long-term brain diseases, like CTE.

Clements pointed out that most youth athletes are not going to play in college or the professional ranks, so it’s important to take care of kids as they go through school and life.