Brad Johnson, the former Vikings QB, is at Dick's Sporting Goods in Richfield from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. today (Friday) to promote the use of ImPACT concussion screening by young athletes.

While concussion screening has become standard for pro and college teams, Johnson said it remains "uncharted territory" for many youth sports organizations. He hoped his advocacy would encourage more teams and athletic clubs to use it, and to be cautious when young athletes suffer head injuries.

"It's a no-brainer," he said. "I've got two boys, they're 8 and 10."

Dick's has created the Protecting Athletes through Concussion Education (PACE) program, by which it will fund ImPACT concussion screening at more than 3,000 schools (with the goal of screening 1 million kids). When athletes sustain injuries, they take the ImPACT test again and then compare their latest scores with their original baseline scores. A variation suggests that an athlete is still suffering from concussion symptoms and in need of rest.

To get an idea of what the test is like, remember these four words:

king, sand, fire, bird

More on that later.

Concussions are being taken more seriously in Minnesota. Several high schools and colleges in the state have been using ImPACT, which helps doctors and athletic trainers decide when athletes can safely return to play. Gov. Mark Dayton signed a law this summer that requires concussion training for coaches and sets limits on when athletes with concussions can play again.

Dick's has been hosting ImPACT promotional events with NFL players across the country. Johnson was a late sub for John Randle, the former Viking who couldn't make today's event due to a family emergency. Johnson said he suffered a severe concussion once, losing consciousness after a collision during a basketball game at Florida State. He said the injury caused him to forget the entire offensive playbook, and to flunk a math final for which he had been studying.



In his pro football career, Johnson admitted there were times when hits caused him to become forgetful. He said he is glad that the NFL and other organizations are using ImPACT and taking concussions more seriously.

"I've been in football games where I was asking the running back, 'which way are you going?'" he said. "It's a part of sports where you've got to suck it up and play through some stuff. But then there's also the part of sports where there can be an injury that is damaging for a lifetime."

Johnson now coaches a varsity basketball team in Georgia and his son's fifth grade football team. Having access to reliable concussion testing should make it easier for volunteer coaches and youth coaches to be cautious and to pull injured children from games or practices until they are checked out, he said.

So back to those words you were supposed to remember. No peeking. Look below and try to recall which ones you saw on the list before.

queen, sand, blaze, duck

This was a crude example -- based on my recollection from taking the baseline test a few years ago -- but you get the idea of how the test works. The level of concentration necessary is going to be tough for athletes with concussion symptoms. So they won't be able to fake it and convince their coaches they are OK to play right away.

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