Tracking hits to better understand concussions

- Aidan Polly spends much of his life on the ice, playing hockey.

"I get on the ice and I'm ready to get hurt.  It’s part of it, if it happens, it happens," the 17-year-old said.

Three years ago, it did happen after Aidan was hit from behind. He went face-first into the boards. 

"I don't remember hitting the boards or the ice and I had, to this day, the worst headache I have ever had," he offered.

His mother Crystal says doctors gave Aidan the green light to hit the ice when the headaches stopped. Then three days later, an elbow to his head took him down again. 

"It was weird because the hit to the head looked like nothing," she recalled.

The headache was back and Aidan was diagnosed with a concussion. He missed a week of school because of it.

Now, along with supporting his teammates on the ice, Aidan's also supporting research. He wears a special mouth guard that transmits information wirelessly to laptops nearby.  It downloads data every time he's hit, falls, or he hits someone else.

It's all part of a study at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital evaluating head injuries in high school hockey, football and soccer players.

Neuropsychologist Dr. Jennifer Katzenstein says they're using blood samples and brain function exams. They match them up with impact, acceleration, and rotation of the head.

Katzenstein believes rotational brain-jostling forces may be very harmful to a developing brain.

"We think about the brain being suspended in fluid. But as we change the brain's rotation, with inertia, that brain may move along the skull in one direction or another and sustain more damage than what we would expect from one single hit," she explained.

It's information they hope will allow players to more safely explore their passion.

"I just hope that this helps doctors and medical professionals diagnose concussions better so that other people don't have to go through what I went through," Aidan added. 

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