Tag Archives: concussion management

The Athletic Trainer’s Role in Youth Sports

27 Mar

Wow, the month of February and March have been a flurry of activity for me.  I have been able to provide athletic training care to thousands of athletes at a youth soccer tournament, PIAA District Wrestling Championships, PIAA State Wrestling Championships, PA Junior Wrestling State Championships as well as my own athletes at my employer.  While providing these services to these groups, I was keenly aware of the amount of athletes who don’t get these services.

In an article on the Discovery Networks website, the author explores the possibility of “Smart Helmets” changing the future of youth sports.  The author quotes:

Identifying the injury is only the first step, the authors note. Smart helmets aren’t a diagnostic tool; rather, the technology could help make the connection between an athlete who may have an injury and a medical assessment. When a sensor is triggered, the athlete would need evaluation from a trained professional on-site or a referral for off-site medical evaluation.

This one paragraph clearly delineates our profession’s role in Youth Sports.  I am all for this smart technology that will clearly indicate when a possible concussive hit has been absorbed by an athlete of any age.  But a fancy LED display that indicates an excessive force is useless if their isn’t a medical professional there to clinically evaluate the athlete.  Youth football leagues need to provide athletic training services to these athletes.

Little Baseball is suffering a similar issue with pitch counts, curve ball debates and pitchers throwing with sore arms.  Pitch counts are a great tool, but they are limited in scope.  Many of the better players are playing on 2 or even 3 baseball teams at the same time.  Other youth baseball players are playing for 9 or 10 months of the year.  Research has shown that it isn’t the type of pitch that is thrown (i.e. curve ball), it is the volume of pitches that are thrown.  The volume of pitches thrown dramatically increase when you play for 2-3 teams a year.  Who is watching out for these young athletes?  Who can these young athletes approach to evaluate their arm pain without their parents making the first contact?

I firmly believe it is our profession of athletic training that can make a difference in these young athletes’ health and lives.  As my friend and colleague has in his email tagline “Every athlete deserves an athletic trainer.”  I wholeheartedly agree from ages 7 to 70 and up.  If you are involved in organized athletics, you not only deserve an athletic trainer; you need an athletic trainer.

What is Our Focus?

15 Dec

Two recent articles have me thinking about what our role as Athletic Trainers is towards the athletes that we provide health care to.  In a New York Times article, a former Denver Bronco Nate Jackson calls out athletic trainers in the NFL.  He says:

This harsh reality is softened by human relationships. Football players spend every day with the members of their team’s medical staff. They learn to trust them. The athletic trainers nurse the players back to health when they are injured. Continue reading

News – He is the injured athlete’s go to guy

28 Oct

Raleigh, NC – Burgetta Eplin Wheeler of th News Observer in North Carolina wrote an article about the work of Aaron Minger, AT at Boughton HS.  This isn’t a fluff piece of reporting touting the service Aaron provides to the athletes, this is an in depth article focusing primarily at the money he saves the parent’s of the school district.

Hours after the school day has ended, Aaron Minger, Broughton High’s athletic trainer, is idling in a golf cart in the middle of the football practice field, easily accessible to all 120 players. Not 60 seconds after mentioning he’s always on call for other sports, Minger picks up his ringing phone.

It’s the women’s tennis coach, and a player is down. Continue reading

Follow Up – Why ATs are needed

20 Sep

On August 31, 2011, I wrote this blog entry highlighting an unfortunate situation in Nokesville, VA.  In the entry I wrote:

The sad realization is this, that if a experienced athletic trainer was managing this football player’s concussion I firmly believe this young man would be alive today.  If the parents were instructed about cocoon therapy properly, then this young man may be a freshman in college today.  But, only 42% of this countries high schools provide an AT for their athletes!  We need to change this or there will be more sad stories, more grieving parents, more schools who will lose a bright student and a vibrant member of their community.

My blog entry was missing some major information – there was an athletic trainer present at the game.  Several AT who know the inside story not revealed in the original article highlighted in my post, informed me of this important fact. Continue reading

Why ATs Are Needed in High Schools

31 Aug

Nokesville, VA – The following story (linked below) maybe one of the saddest stories that I have read this year and it strengthens my resolve to be a better AT and hopefully prevent this from happening in my school.  As a parent of a daughter in high school, I can’t imagine the depth of pain these parents must feel in the seemingly preventable loss of their son.

Austin Trenum’s bed remains half-made, the way a typical teenager would leave it. On a shelf is his scarred black helmet, the one he was wearing when he tackled the quarterback near the sidelines during Brentsville High’s game against Handley some 11 months ago. Austin’s mouthpiece remains tucked neatly in the face mask, ready to be taken out for the next play.

For Austin, there was no next play. Continue reading

News – Certified Athletic Trainers Key to Diagnosing and Treatment of Concussions

21 Aug

Idaho – For the past few years, there has been increasing awareness within the media of the problem of concussions in high school sports.  This awareness has raised the level of concern by parents, coaches and administrators, but the awareness hasn’t raised the collective knowledge level.  Proper recognition and treatment of concussions is still a problem.

Zach Kyle of the Idaho State Journal wrote an outstanding piece on the problem.  He writes:

Concussions always will be a reality in high school sports. Continue reading

Why Concussion Legislation is Needed

18 Apr

Many states across the country are in the process or have already passed legislation in the management of concussions.  With awareness of the injury rising and with pressure changing on athletes to no longer play with a concussion, you may ask yourself why this is needed.

This article out of San Diego, CA  illustrates what has been going of for years between knowledgable ATs and coaches all across the country.  Egotistical coaches whose desire to win outweighs their care for their athlete’s health make bad decisions.  Continue reading

New Game Plan for Concussions

4 Apr

Neurology Now – A well written article discusses the prevelence of concussion in sports and the incompetence of the general public in recognizing the signs and symptoms of a concussion.  I have peiced together many of the better parts of the article below.  It is worth the read and highlights the importance of access to athletic trainers for all athletes.

Over the past few years, a number of stories have made the headlines involving mismanaged injuries in young athletes that turned catastrophic. Too many times, players have been moved off the field when they shouldn’t have been or cleared to return to play before they fully recovered. Instead of heading off to college, teenagers like Matthew Newman of Cowiche, WA, are spending what would be their freshman year making trips to rehabilitation facilities. Newman suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) during a football game in September 2009, and has been fighting a long battle to recover ever since.

As a result, dangerous hits are being taken more seriously. Athletic organizations at every level—from Pop Warner football to the National Football League—are changing the rules that dictate when players can return to the field, what type of personnel must be present at sporting events, and how to determine if an athlete can suit up… or should sit down.

Additionally, a number of states have begun to adopt legislation requiring that players who are suspected to have suffered a concussion be removed from play. (See box, “Making Concussion Safety a Law.”) Data from the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH, show that as many as 40 percent of high school athletes who sustain concussions return to action prematurely, which raises the risk for more severe injuries.

“Letting someone continue to play when they are concussed will commonly cause a longer, more complex injury,” says Jeffrey Kutcher, M.D., assistant professor of neurology at University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor, MI, and director of the Michigan Neurosport Program. If an athlete re-enters a game or practice, he or she faces serious risks—even if there is no further physical contact. “If they continue to exert themselves physically and mentally at high levels, the injury worsens, with more complex symptoms and a more difficult recovery,” he says.

What is known is that concussions are happening far too often. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), three million concussions occur every year in the United States. Among people 15 to 24 years old, sports are second only to motor vehicle accidents as the leading cause of TBI. Concussions represent an estimated 8.9 percent of all high school athletic injuries, according to a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

“These injuries are happening more frequently than we ever realized,” and they’re not always easy to detect, says Julian Bailes, M.D., director of the Brain Injury Research Institute and professor and chairman of the department of neurosurgery at West Virginia University School of Medicine in Morgantown. “It can be very difficult to discern how serious a hit is by just seeing or hearing what happened,” Dr. Bailes says.

That was one of the key drivers behind the AAN’s recommendations: to take the decision of whether a player can return to the field out of the coach’s hand, and to leverage the technological innovations and advances in research that have surfaced in recent months to improve the care of athletes, says Dr. Kutcher.

The bottom line of the new position is actually quite simple: Got a possible concussion? Get off the field.

While experts such as neurologists and certified athletic trainers are qualified to identify the signs of a concussion, doing so can be much more difficult for the untrained. Many people believe that concussions only occur when a player is unconscious. This assumption, says Dr. Bailes, is both incorrect and dangerous. “With the vast majority of concussions in sports—90 percent of the time, in fact—athletes don’t get knocked out,” he notes. “They’re walking around and talking, and they look normal.”

That’s where testing comes into play. Through a neuropsychological evaluation, physicians acquire important information about a patient’s cognitive, motor, behavioral, language, and executive functioning, which can guide them in making a diagnosis and determining when it is safe for an athlete to return to play. According to the AAP, evaluation is based on several computerized neuropsychological tests designed to objectively evaluate an athlete’s post-injury condition and track recovery to prevent cumulative effects of concussion. A neuropsychologist may also administer a pencil-and-paper test to the patient.

Why athletic trainers are needed

WHY TRAINERS ARE NEEDED

One step that can assist in identifying and assessing possible concussions is the presence of a certified athletic trainer. According to Dr. Kutcher, this is important for several reasons.

“Athletic trainers have the experience and the training to be able to block out all of the environmental distractions that exist during games and triage an injury,” says Dr. Kutcher, who is also a team physician for the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University athletic programs. And trainers are taught to be completely objective when evaluating athletes.

“While I would love to think that all parents, coaches, and teammates can have objective viewpoints on these injuries, the truth is, that’s hard to do. Athletic trainers accept that responsibility, and they’ve developed the skills to not let the person’s position of importance to the team—for example, the starting quarterback—affect their clinical judgment.”

What distinguishes certified athletic trainers from other professionals such as personal trainers is the fact that they must graduate with a bachelor’s or master’s degree from an accredited professional athletic training education program and pass a test administered by the Board of Certification, according to the National Athletic Trainer’s Association. Once certified, they must meet ongoing continuing education requirements.

Original article

AT Skill Set – Policy/Procedure Development

22 Mar

If you were to research lawsuits and investigations into sports injuries, the programs that have written protocols, policies and procedures fare the best.  Writing and following these plans protect the athletic program and employees.

One of the first things that ATs establish written protocols and policies covering everything from Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) with the school/team physician to communication between the coaches and AT staff.  Continue reading

News – A dilemma in playing football

7 Mar

San Deigo, CA – Now that medical professionals involved with treating sports injuries, especially concussions, are beginning to know the long term effects of concussion, they are faced with a dilemma.  Do you allow your own children to play football?  Is football, the way it is currently played, safe enough for your child? Continue reading