Role of Athletic Trainers for Concussion Care
Benefits of an Athletic Trainer
- Specialized Training - Athletic trainers receive specific training in concussion management.
- Education - Athletic trainers provide important concussion education to student-athletes, parents, coaches, and school staff.
- Standard of Care - Schools with athletic trainers are at least 4 times more likely to recognize and diagnose concussions than schools without them.
Athletic trainers are vital members of any concussion care team. They help maintain the health of not only athletes but also a variety of other patients. Learn more about their specific role and why an athletic trainer is important for your organization’s concussion protocol.
What Is an Athletic Trainer?
Athletic trainers are skilled healthcare professionals who work alongside physicians. Their specialized training and diverse skill set allow them to make removal from activity decisions, assist with injury prevention, and provide emergency and rehabilitative care.
Unlike personal trainers, athletic trainers are required to graduate from an accredited master’s program that supplies a curriculum and clinical training based on the medical model. They may also complete athletic training certifications and take annual continuing education courses to stay up to date on the best practices in concussion care.
What Does an Athletic Trainer Do?
Athletic trainers offer care to all types of patients and can work in a wide range of settings. (Learn about the athletic trainer's role in the physician practice setting.) This can include providing primary care, outpatient rehab support, and education for injury prevention. Specifically, at the school and youth sports levels, athletic trainers serve as a liaison between outside medical professionals, school administration, and parents.
They are instrumental in maintaining the safety of student-athletes and ensuring an organization’s concussion protocol is airtight. Athletic trainers do this by being the main point of contact for concussion care and in some cases, helping identify the policies, tools, assessments, and stakeholders to include. Having these procedures in place helps protect schools from potential lawsuits by documenting their concussion management plan and showing they are up to date on the best practices for treatment.
Here are a few other areas athletic trainers are responsible for:
- Educating athletes, parents, school staff, and coaches about concussion and injury prevention
- Developing emergency action plans
- Conducting examinations and assessments of injuries
- Making removal from activity decisions
- Coordinating rehabilitative care with athletes and parents
- Establishing a return to play protocol
- Suggesting academic adjustments for return to learn
For more information on how to protect your organization from lawsuits, read the Liability in Concussion Care 101 Guide.
Athletic Trainers and Concussion Testing
As the first healthcare provider to assess an athlete for a possible concussion on the sideline, athletic trainers play a crucial role. They can evaluate and manage concussions by using a variety of objective tools. Here are some of the assessments they may use:
- Neurocognitive testing
- Balance Error Scoring System (BESS) testing
- Vestibular-Ocular Motor Screening (VOMS)
- Clinical examinations
Schools that have athletic trainers are seeing improvements in how they handle concussions. At the high school level, 50% of concussed athletes with low athletic trainer availability underwent a return-to-play protocol compared to 100% at schools with high athletic trainer availability.
Finding an Athletic Trainer for Your Organization
50% of schools currently have athletic training coverage. If your school or youth sports organization does not, you're leaving a large number of athletes and students at risk. Search our directory of ImPACT Trained Athletic Trainers to find a local concussion specialist who can share more about the importance of their role.
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