The number of kids who participate in youth sports has grown exponentially over the last 10 years, which gives way to the importance of athletic trainers who care for injuries that may occur. March is National Athletic Training Month and the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), including athletic trainers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, are further explaining to parents, coaches and children that ‘not all athletes wear jerseys’ and injuries, especially concussions, should be taken seriously.
In January 2011, the Ohio High School Athletic Association updated their guidelines on concussions by ruling that only a physician or an athletic trainer may clear in injured athlete -- by written consent -- for return to play after sustaining a concussion.
“Less than 50 percent of high school athletes report their concussions,” said Thomas L. Pommering, DO, medical director of Sports Medicine at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “So, it is important to help make them understand the need to seek careful evaluation and management of any sport-related concussion.”
Athletes need to seek medical attention when feeling the symptoms of a concussion. Symptoms include, but are not limited to headaches, dizziness, nausea, vision disturbances and difficulty concentrating. Subsequent concussions can be easier to sustain and sometimes require less force. If a second concussion happens prior to the resolution of the first concussion, an individual may risk Second Impact Syndrome. This syndrome is lethal 50 percent of the time and is only seen in young athletes.
An athlete who has sustained a concussion should be removed from play immediately to allow the brain to rest. It is important to limit screen time such as watching television, playing on the computer, texting, etc., while also discouraging long periods of reading and loud music as the brain tries to heal. Parents need to pay attention to subtle changes in their child’s personality, attention levels and any irregular behavior. Before the athlete returns to play, consult an experienced physician and/or athletic trainer for proper evaluation and return to play management.
“Athletic trainers are an integral part of our Sports Medicine team at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, said Dr. Pommering. “On the playing field or court, athletic trainers act as our ‘eyes and ears’ keeping the athletes safe and healthy. They see these kids on a daily basis, know their personalities and the situation surrounding the injury and are in the best position to objectively progress them back to sport post injury.”
As part of the concussion management team, the athletic trainer is often the first person to recognize, evaluate and manage concussions in high school athletes. Their job is to ensure a complete and safe return to competition after an injury has resolved.