I have noticed a major change in how we have been able to manage concussions at my school since this new legislation. When it initially came out the school personnel, athletes, and parents were reluctant and upset with the new requirements. I, on the other hand, was ecstatic because it put the athletic trainers in the forefront and helped bring to light the issue of concussions along with the issue of the lack of athletic trainers in secondary schools.
I am solely responsible for concussion management at the school that I am contracted with. In August, I spoke numerous times at parents’ meetings, with the athletes, and with the coaching staff. I spoke at length with the school nurse. All of them received information from the Illinois High School Association and CDC regarding concussions. The coaches, administrators, and school nurse were also provided with the return to play protocols.
It is important that we as athletic trainers take control of concussion management. Most others are not educated to do so nor do they have any interest in doing so. I know that at first it was a struggle for people to understand and go along with the management plan, but I’m happy to say that at our school concussions have become important and they are handled in the best way possible!
I was so happy after our first varsity game of the year. Not because we won (beat 42-6) but because the concussion education was paying off. I had a couple of players come to me to tell me that one of their teammates was displaying signs of a concussion. On the bus ride home, they noted them again and notified the coach. The kid was able to hide these signs from the coaching staff and myself, but his teammates pointed them out. They put safety first!
My procedure for a kid who I decide has a concussion automatically includes clearance from a physician. Last spring, I would get athletes back from concussions being cleared for immediate competition by their physicians. My hands were tied at that point unfortunately. This year most of the physicians have given the kids notes that said,”cleared to begin return to play protocol.” That puts it in my hands now and that’s right where I want it to be! Although there was some initial resistance, the coaching staff has taken that head-on and we are making progress!
Concussion management has to be a team effort. It requires each part of the team to work together in the proper recognition, treatment, and management of a concussed athlete. It starts with the coaches, parents, athletes, and teammates to look out for that athlete. It includes the medical professions including the certified athletic trainer, the school nurse, and physicians. It also includes school administrators and teachers.
Remember, Every Athlete Deserves an Athletic Trainer.