Why athletes need ATs – Neurocognitive Testing

14 Feb

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.

Neuro-Cognitive Testing

Public awareness of concussions has risen dramatically in the past few years.  This is largely thanks in part to the athletic training community, neuropsychologists, the NFL and the discovery of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).  NFL has partnered with the NATA in a campaign to raise awareness, educate and prevent mismanagement of concussions.  It is difficult to go a week and not hear a story or report about concussions on ESPN or the major networks.

Public awareness of neurocognitive testing has risen also.  It isn’t hard to find stories about school districts that have seen the need to start baseline testing of athletes in concussion risk sports.  Parents, athletes, coaches and administrations want the athletes to be tested.  It is cost effective and is another tool in the toolbox to aid in the proper management of concussed athletes.

But having the desire to have the neurocognitive testing, seeing the need to test, having the means to test (modern computer lab access) means that the test must be administered and interpreted by qualified personnel.  The most cost effective professional to administer and interpret the neurocognitive tests in most cases in the athletic trainer.  There is a percentage of concussions that need to be seen by a highly trained Neuropsychologist, a Neurosurgeon or a medical doctor with advanced training in concussion management.  But the vast majority of concussions can be professionally managed by an AT especially with the added tool of cognitive testing.

Most of my experience is with the ImPACT test that I have used for 7 years now, but there are many other tests available to the public.  It is a valuable tool for me and easily shows athletes, parents and coaches the cognitive deficits that the athletes have when they are concussed.  Many tests are now internet based so access can be where ever high-speed internet access is available.  If you want further information on testing, see the experts at The Concussion Blog. There are surely more tests being developed and you can be sure that the ATs will keep in touch with these new tests and advances in concussion management.

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