Published on: 28-Oct-2018
The role a certified athletic trainer (ATC) plays in preventing, assessing and caring for a concussed athlete is critical to an athlete’s return to play and overall health. The ATC is often the first line of defense in injury prevention, which is why it is essential they be on the field, court or arena where injuries may occur.
As injury cases such as concussions, continue to evolve, keeping up with these progressions requires a careful adaption in the injury assessment treatment methods. To that, ATI Physical Therapy ATCs put a great deal of effort in staying up on monitoring symptoms along with implementing return-to-learn and return-to-play protocols.
As far as preparation, ATI’s Sports Medicine division is pivotal in ensuring all ATCs are prepared to assess concussions by requiring them to undergo very specific and rigorous training programs that educate the team on current protocols prior to each sport’s season.
In an effort to thwart off a concussion, an ATC will continually work with their athletes to provide effective guidance and education on techniques that help with avoiding concussion-enabling situations. In doing this, an ATC will often follow these protocols:
In recent years, return-to-play success rates have steadily enjoyed a healthy uptick. With much help from researchers such as Dr. Ellen Shanley and her work on youth football tackling and training methods, concussion assessment protocols and tools continue to improve.
There are several neurocognitive systems that most high schools utilize, which obtain a baseline test score pre-participation. As a result, if a concussion is suspected, a post-injury test can be performed immediately. In some states, there have also been increased state regulations that all high schools must follow. This has significantly improved the landscape of how concussions are assessed and treated.
When an athlete is diagnosed with a concussion, an ATC is responsible for looking after the concussed athlete on a daily basis. Since every concussion is unique, each case must be handled individually to ensure the athlete is completing all the required steps and is ready to safely return to action. Traditionally, the stages ATI ATCs follow for a concussed athlete include:
Spotting a concussion
Spotting a concussion is a method that continues to change in the concussion climate, which is why it is crucial an ATC be current on assessment protocols. In its most common form, a concussion can be spotted when an athletic trainer sees a head-to-head collision. A head-to-head collision is the most obvious indicator of a concussion and almost always warrants a thorough evaluation provided by an ATC. It is important to note that not all concussions come from head-to-head collisions. Some concussions come from rapid rotation or can even be caused from smaller repetitive blows to the head.
Assessing a concussion in the initial stages can be tricky, which is why it is important athletic trainers connect with their athletes and get to know them personally to spot any unusual changes in their mood and energy. An ATC will put themselves in the middle of the athletes during timeouts and breaks during practices and games to get a read on their athletes, look at their eyes and ensure that everyone is healthy to participate. While an ATC serves as the team’s primary concussion-spotter, it is also important that athletes and coaches catch potential head injuries and communicate any potential issues with the team’s ATC.
Recently, new technology in helmets can measure and notify athletic trainers when a high velocity impact has occurred. Athletes wearing this technology in their helmets will be pulled from practice or competition if an impact hard enough to cause damage occurs or if several smaller impacts have occurred and the sum of those collisions crosses a certain threshold.
An athlete who continues to play with a concussion is putting their health at an increased risk of sustaining something called second impact syndrome. Second impact syndrome is a condition that occurs when a second instance or injury occurs to the brain that has already sustained an injury that was not completed healed. This has the potential to be a life-altering injury. This is why ATCs are so vital in preventing, assessing and caring for head injuries. If you or someone you know has recently experienced a head injury, get it checked out right away. Stop by an ATI clinic near you or schedule a complimentary screening at ATI Physical Therapy today!