The Importance of a Certified Athletic Trainer When Diagnosing a Concussion

Certified athletic trainers (ATC) do more than watch a sporting event from the sidelines or tape athlete’s ankles.  They are health care professionals trained to work in a variety of settings and with many different types of people – not just athletes.  An ATC collaborates with physicians to optimize the activity and participation of patients and clients.  Athletic training encompasses the prevention, diagnosis and intervention of emergency, acute, and chronic medical conditions involving impairment, functional limitations, and disabilities. 

The area receiving media attention lately is athletic trainers saving lives in the form of concussion recognition and care.  A concussion is a type of mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) that interferes with normal function of the brain.  It can be caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or body. The head does not have to hit something to cause a concussion.  A force transmitted to the head can be enough to bounce the brain and cause a concussion.

Parents and coaches are not expected to be able to diagnose a concussion.  That is the role of an appropriate health care provider.  Many high school trainers are not actually athletic trainers. They may be skilled in first aid, but not certified to recognize a possible head trauma.  The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) currently recognizes physicians and licensed athletic trainers as appropriate sports medicine staff.

Parents, coaches and athletes should be aware of signs and symptoms of a concussion.  Symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Vision problems
  • Sensitivity to light or sound
  • Feeling foggy or sluggish
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Changes in emotion

Athletes should never try to “tough it out” when experiencing concussion symptoms. If an athlete returns to activity before being fully healed from a concussion, he/she is at risk for a repeat concussion.  This can slow the recovery process and lead to long-term problems.  In the most severe case, it can lead to death.  Always remove an athlete from play if a concussion is suspected. 

Fort HealthCare offers ImPACT, a computerized neurocognitive assessment tool, which can be used to determine an athlete’s readiness to return to play after a concussion. Widely used by collegiate and professional sports teams, it’s the most scientifically validated computerized concussion evaluation system. Prior to a concussion, a baseline screening establishes an individual’s normal ImPACT score. Should a concussion occur, the test can be re-administered to assist health care providers in making return-to-play decisions. To learn more or to schedule a baseline screening, visit FortHealthCare.com/ImPACT.

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