The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
Milt Prewett surmises there are anywhere from 15 to 20 high schools within 20 miles of Christus Outpatient Center — St. Mary.
But until recently, the closest concussion center was nearly 100 miles away, at Christus St. John in Clear Lake. That’s where Milt Prewett took his son, Doug, a former quarterback for Lamar University, after he sustained several football-related concussions.
“You don’t know what the long-range effects are,” said Prewett, who lives in Beaumont.
Doug Prewett chose to leave football behind after suffering his sixth concussion. However, with the opening of Christus St. Mary’s Sports Medicine Center, others in his situation will have to travel only as far as the corner of Highway 73 and 9th Avenue to receive treatment for concussions.
Milt Prewett attended the grand opening of the center on Thursday.
“Southeast Texas is such a hotbed for student athletes,” said Prewett, who lives in Beaumont. “This is a wonderful thing for this area to have access to.”
The new facility has been in the works for the past 18 months, when sports medicine director Dr. Jack Johnston, saw a growing necessity for local concussion care.
“I was seeing all these kids with concussions, and I was having to send them to Houston,” said Johnston, who estimated that he sees between two and five patients with sports-related concussions every Friday night. “It’s very difficult to transport them.”
Johnston, an orthopedic surgeon, is responsible for the rehabilitation portion of sports medicine. He will see and treat patients at his Mid-County office, and after surgery, the patients will come to the center for sport-specific physical therapy. The 3,600-square foot center is equipped with a stairstepper, a balance machine — everything, Dr. Kimberly Pitts said, one would find at a normal gym.
“You have a high level of skilled physical therapists with high level equipment,” Pitts said. “We’re not piecemealing. This is everything you need and then some.”
As the center’s concussion director, Pitts will perform baseline testing on student athletes to determine how their brain functions prior to a concussion. Post-concussion, she will continue the concussion management program — called ImPACT (Immediate Post Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Training) — until the post-concussion and pre-concussion brain patterns are the same.
Pitts said that long-term effects of concussions can include depression, anxiety, memory disturbance and early onset dementia. She added that doctors have also recently found a correlation between head injuries and other learning disabilities such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
“The importance is making sure that there are no injuries that go untreated,” Pitts said.
That, of course, starts on the sidelines. The center has already performed baseline testing on all student athletes from Port Neches-Groves ISD, and intends to do the same with other area schools. There are currently 10 professionals on staff, including two concussion specialists, but Pitts said she expects that number to rise.
“I imagine we’ll enumerate somewhere in the 20s,” she said. “We’re bringing something from Houston here where we can utilize it.”