Written By: Valerie Bozza, MS, ATC, LAT
Certified and Licensed Athletic Trainer
Athletic Trainers (ATs) wear many hats as you are starting to learn throughout our March Athletic Training Blog Series. One of the many roles we play is in the prevention, evaluation, and treatment of concussions. ATs work through the following 6 step process for concussion management.
Baseline Concussion Testing
ATs administer baseline concussion testing through a variety of software systems available that provide knowledge of the athlete’s starting point. Our Fassst SPORT and Fassst PROTECT Athletic Trainers utilize ImPACT Applications as it is the gold standard in concussion assessment and tracking.
ImPACT testing has two versions, pediatric (ages 5 – 11) and adult (ages 12 and up). Both testing types are offered through our team. The test measures an individual’s memory, attention span, and visual/verbal problem solving. The pediatric exam is administered on an iPad in a 1 on 1 setting with the AT and is developed to be an enjoyable experience for the test taker with colorful imagery and game-based assessments.
Properly fitting equipment and headgear plays a huge role in the ability to absorb and distribute forces. Not everyone has the same head size and shape and Athletic Trainers are trained in how to properly fit equipment such as football, lacrosse, and hockey helmets to ensure proper usage and injury prevention.
ATs provide immediate onsite evaluation and medical decision making for concussions as well as a multitude of orthopedic and sports related injuries. They serve as the first line of defense and take the guess work out of the hands of the coaches, players, parents, and staff and place the decision for return to play in the
hands of their medical background and expertise.
When athletes experience a head trauma, our team completes a thorough assessment including a SCAT5 (Sports Concussion Assessment Tool) before determining if an athlete is cleared to continue playing or needs to be removed from competition. We observe and record the athlete’s signs/symptoms, assess the athletes’ memory recall, perform diagnostic testing, and examine principles of balance and stability.
Clinical ImPACT Testing
When an athlete has a suspected concussion or head trauma, clinical ImPACT testing is utilized as a testing tool for comparative purposes throughout the rehabilitation process. Our ATs administer in-clinic, post-concussive testing to provide our physicians with the most up-to-date data to analyze and guide the course of treatment.
To conduct ImPACT testing in house, our Athletic Trainers have been extensively trained in the usage of the software and our supervising physicians have undergone a testing procedure to become Credentialed ImPACT Consultants (CICs).
Rehabilitation, Recovery, and Return to Play
Athletic Trainers, most notably in the high school, collegiate, and professional environment, oversee and administer the rehabilitation protocols delineated within their scope of practice and in conjunction with the plan of care they have under their supervising physician. Governing bodies for various levels of athletics have taken concussion management very seriously over the past few years and have taken a strong hand in regulating the minimal standards for return-to-play. The NJSIAA (New Jersey Scholastic and Interscholastic Athletics Association) has implemented a graduated 6 day return to play guideline for athletes following a physician’s, who has been trained in the evaluation and management of concussions, clearance. The guideline can be viewed here: https://www.njsiaa.org/sites/default/files/document/11ConcussionModelPolicyDOE.pdf
Properly document and communicate the return to play protocol
Not only is it the Athletic Trainer’s role to prevent, evaluate, and rehabilitate head trauma, we must also properly document and communicate between all parties to ensure the best interest of the athlete’s health and well-being. We need to make sure that coaches understand any limitations imposed on an athlete’s participation and are following the procedure. We need to effectively communicate and alter plans should new symptoms arise. We also work to educate the athlete and parents on the reasoning behind any decisions being made and the importance of being up front and honest regarding symptoms.
The most important role the Athletic Trainer plays in any portion of concussion management is protecting the health, safety, and well-being of the athlete. We are here to ensure the proper steps are taken to help prevent injuries as well as evaluate and treat any head or other traumas that do occur.
If you, your child, or your team is interested in completing a Baseline Concussion Test, our on-field Athletic Trainers are administering them by appointment on Sunday, March 21st between 12 – 3 p.m. at Sportika in Manalapan. This can be scheduled by calling 732.251.5226. If this time is not convenient for you, please contact our Monroe office at 732.251.5200 to schedule a session with one of our Clinical Athletic Trainers. Baseline concussion testing is $30 per athlete with team pricing available.