Evan Nolte

Evan Nolte loves basketball. The rising junior attends Milton High School and is one of the top 50 high school basketball players in the U.S. He’s already receiving athletic scholarship offers from top universities throughout the country.

Nolte clearly has a bright future ahead of him. But a series of events that took place in early 2010 could have derailed his basketball dreams forever.

While playing in the Tournament of Champions, Evan collided with another player and crashed to the floor, hitting his head. He had a headache, but no other symptoms, so he returned to the game. In a subsequent game, Nolte was inadvertently hit by another player’s elbow—a second blow to the head.

After this injury, the 16-year-old’s headaches worsened, he was disoriented and, in his own words, “just didn’t feel right.” At the recommendation of Robin Kleimon, a Certified Athletic Trainer at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta who provides athletic training services to Milton High, Nolte’s parents kept him home from school and monitored his symptoms closely.

They noticed that Evan was not his normal self, and, after consulting with Kleimon again, decided to have him evaluated in the Concussion Clinic at Children’s. Evan was treated by David Marshall, M.D., Medical Director of the Sports Medicine Program. Marshall assessed his injury using Immediate Postconcussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT)™, a 30- to 45-minute, computer-based evaluation that tests neurocognitive status, including memory function, processing speed, reaction time and problem solving skills. The test results indicated Evan was suffering from a concussion.

ImPACT™ testing works best when the athlete has taken it while healthy, to set a baseline against which post-injury results may be measured. Although Evan didn’t have a baseline test, clinicians were able to compare the results from his first test to those from a second ImPACT™ evaluation completed a week later. His results showed improvement, but not enough for him to return to play. Marshall advised Evan’s parents to keep him out of the game for another week.

An athlete suffering a second blow to the head while recovering from an initial concussion can experience second impact syndrome, which causes rapid and severe brain swelling and can have catastrophic or fatal consequences. This is one reason proper diagnosis and treatment of concussions is particularly important.

Once Nolte was symptom-free, he was allowed to rejoin his teammates on the court. Even so, his father Kurt says Evan wasn’t back to normal for a month after returning to the sport. Kurt urges other parents to take concussions in their children seriously. “The results-based, scientific process of ImPACT™ testing gave us peace of mind,” said Kurt. “We knew Evan’s brain would not suffer permanent injury because he returned to the game too soon, and seeing his results improve between the two tests gave Evan confidence to return to the court without fear.”

“Parents who haven’t had their children undergo a baseline ImPACT™ test should make that a priority,” continued Kurt. “It’s high on our list of things to do before Evan’s next season begins. ImPACT™ testing offers an accurate and scientific way to assess brain injuries, something that, as a parent, is very reassuring.”

The Milton High School Eagles went on to win the state championship in 2010, and Evan was instrumental to their success. Thanks to attentive, concerned parents and physicians and staff at Children’s, this talented young man will continue to look forward to a future brimming with possibilities.