DALLAS (April 5, 2007) - Spring has sprung, and that means an increase in warm-weather sports activities and along with it an unfortunate increase in the number of concussions on the youth, high school and college sports playing fields.
"While many parents and athletes think that concussions rarely occur in sports such as lacrosse, soccer, softball and baseball, recent data suggests that concussions occur more frequently than previously thought in these sports," said certified athletic trainer Kevin Guskiewicz, PhD, ATC, who is a professor and director of the Sports Medicine Research Laboratory at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
In recent years, new scientific research and clinical-based literature have given the athletic training and medical professions a wealth of updated information on the treatment of sport-related concussion. To provide athletic trainers, physicians, other medical professionals, parents and coaches, with recommendations based on these latest studies, the National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA) has developed a set of guidelines to prevent and manage sport-related concussion and improve decisions about whether an athlete should or should not return to play after experiencing head trauma.
"The focus on most of the current research is to help eliminate the guesswork involved with treating athletes with concussion," said Guskiewicz. "Considering that more than half of high schools and most youth leagues do not have an athletic trainer on staff to identify and manage injuries on the playing field, it's becoming more difficult to manage this condition. It's paramount that parents, coaches and the athletes themselves better understand how to identify a concussion and the initial treatment and care recommendations following a concussion. We hope these guidelines serve to help clinicians more easily implement an effective concussion management plan."
Following is a list of 10 guidelines from NATA to help prevent and ultimately manage concussions in youth, high school and collegiate settings:
1. If an athlete shows concussion-like signs and reports symptoms after a contact to the head, the athlete has, at the very least, sustained a mild concussion and should be treated for a concussion. The terms "ding" and "bell ringer" are discouraged, because they downplay the significance of the injury.
2. In addition to a thorough clinical evaluation, formal cognitive and postural-stability testing is recommended to assist in objectively determining injury severity and readiness to return to play (RTP). NATA strongly recommends that youth leagues, high schools, colleges and professional teams institute a testing program that incorporates baseline testing of athletes.
3. Once symptom-free, the athlete should be reassessed to establish that cognition and postural stability have returned to normal for that player.
4. An athlete with a concussion should be referred to a physician on the day of injury if he or she lost consciousness or experienced amnesia lasting longer than 15 minutes.
5. A team approach should be used in making RTP decisions after concussion. This approach should involve input from the athletic trainer, physician, athlete and any referral sources.
6. Athletes who are symptomatic at rest and after exertion for at least 20 minutes should be disqualified from returning to participation on the day of the injury.
7. Athletes who experience loss of consciousness or amnesia should be disqualified from participating on the day of the injury.
8. Because damage to the maturing brain of a young athlete can be catastrophic, younger athletes (under age 18) should be managed more conservatively, using stricter RTP guidelines than those used to manage concussion in the more mature athlete. Therefore, youth athletes are strongly encouraged to never return to play on the same day that a concussion is sustained.
9. Any athlete with a concussion should be instructed to rest, but complete bed rest is not recommended.
10. Because of an increased risk for future concussions, as well as for slowed recovery, athletes with a history of three concussions should be advised that terminating participation in contact sports may be in their best interest.
Visit http://www.nata.org/statements/position/concussion.pdf for NATA's position statement on the management of sport-related concussion.
About NATA: Certified athletic trainers are unique health care providers who specialize in the prevention, assessment, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries and illnesses. Only 42 percent of high schools and their students have access to athletic trainers, leaving ready access to health care unavailable to the majority of public high school students. The National Athletic Trainers' Association represents and supports the 30,000 members of the athletic training profession through education and research. http://www.nata.org. NATA, 2952 Stemmons Freeway, Ste. 200, Dallas, TX 75247, 214.637.6282; 214.637.2206 (fax).