Why Do Athletes Need ATs – Concussion Management

7 Jan

Why do athletes or athletic departments or teams need the services of an athletic trainer?  This will be a series of articles attempting to examine the unique and important roles that athletic trainers play in the lives of the people that they care for.

Part 2 – Concussions

Finally, the general public, coaches, athletes, parents and the media are starting to realize the serious nature of concussions and management of concussions.  This topic is something that ATs have been attempting to educate our athletes and coaches about for years.  I believe this awareness trend all started way back in 2002 when Dr. Bennett Omalu, a County Coroner, was called to the site of former Pittsburgh Steeler and Hall of Famer Mike Webster’s death.Dr. Bennett spent months examining his brain and discovered something that had never been seen before.  What he discovered is now call Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE for short.  Since that discovery until now, several former athlete’s deaths have been attributed to CTE.  Other medical research has shown that past concussions are related to drug and alcohol problems, depression, memory issues, etc.  The public is finding out that concussions are a serious, long term health issue.  Thanks to my AT colleague at The Concussion Blog and other good websites, there are great resources for people to read about concussions.

Awareness is great, but management of the concussion is another.  Concussion management is an area that Athletic Trainers excel.  All the high school ATs that I know are very well versed in concussion prevention, recognition, management, research and return to play protocols.  What is scary is that many, many doctors don’t have the same expertise that athletic trainers do.

Further aiding the athletic trainer’s management of the concussed athlete is daily access.  It would be very difficult and awfully expensive to see a doctor who is good with concussions on a daily basis but an ATC at the high school will see the athlete daily and often several times a day.  Not only does the ATC evaluate the athlete in the athletic training room, he can monitor the concussed athlete during prescribed exertional testing.

Many schools now employ the same neuro-cognitive testing programs used by the NFL, NBA, NHL and major colleges.  These computer based programs are a cost effective way to reveal the cognitive abilities of the concussed athlete, but a specially trained health care professional must read the results.  The AT has the base knowledge of concussions and it generally only takes a 1 or 2 day course to get the AT the proper training in reading the results.  The testing and interpretation of the results is a valuable tool for a school to have when there is an AT on staff.  Who knows how many Traumatic Brain Injuries with long term disabilities or even deaths have been prevented because an AT was on staff and prevented a concussed athlete from returning to play too soon.

For those of you that want some numbers, I had 1,300+ athletes participate at my school district last year (2009-2010), but only 525 participated in a collision or contact sport.  I documented 33 concussions last year and administered the ImPACT test over 50 times.  At this point in the school year, we are on pace to surpass that mark of 33 concussions.  I believe we have a great system in place to properly manage all of these concussed athletes because of the daily access that athletes have to an AT and the weekly access the athletes have to the team physician.  The school nurse is even part of the management team and she often sends me athletes who have visited her for Tylenol complaining of a headache.  Together, the team that we have formed is performing very effective management of our concussed athletes.

It is scary to think how school districts manage concussions when there is no access to an athletic trainer!  High schools need athletic trainers if for nothing else but concussion management alone.

3 Responses to “Why Do Athletes Need ATs – Concussion Management”

  1. Dustin Fink January 8, 2011 at 1:20 am #

    Good work, Paul! Like the style change too…


  1. Why Athletic Trainer’s Are Needed « The Concussion Blog - January 7, 2011

    […] a new blog put together by an athletic training colleague of mine and today in his second part of his series explaining why schools need athletic trainers he focuses on concussion awareness and management. Awareness is great, but management of the […]

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