Solving the Head Case

The National Athletic Trainers’ Association Takes Lead Role in Developing Head-Injury Position Statement

DALLAS (March 12, 2003) – Who determines when and if an athlete returns to play following a head injury? With more than 300,000 sport-related traumatic brain or head injuries occurring annually in the United States, early recognition and proper assessment of concussions continue to be crucial for the athlete’s recovery. As essential members of the medical team, certified athletic trainers (ATCs) play an invaluable role in this process, particularly when many concussions are not easily distinguishable. While immediate steps in recognition and assessment of head injuries include identifying common concussion symptoms, such as nausea, dizziness, poor balance, blurred vision, sensitivity to light and fatigue, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) is developing a position statement entitled “Management of Sport-Related Concussions” for Spring/Summer 2004 release. “It’s time we take the guess work out of assessing concussions,” said Kevin M. Guskiewicz, PhD, ATC,“ position statement chair. “The NATA position statement is a collaboration of some of the finest physicians, neuropsychologists and certified athletic trainers who have, for years, wanted to see a ‘gold standard’ document to help all of us follow the same recognition and assessment steps across the board. Our goal is to achieve one directive that will be applicable for youth sports leagues all the way up to professional and recreational athletes.” Guskiewicz is a leading researcher in the concussion field, and is director of Sports Medicine Research Laboratory at the University of North Carolina. “Since initial evaluation and management are often completed by athletic trainers, it is imperative that we adhere to the same guidelines and speak the same language. Our immediate action steps are critical to the athlete’s care,” added Guskiewicz, who is a 14-year member of the NATA. According to Guskiewicz, football is generally recognized as the sport most often associated with concussion, while moderate to high incidences of concussion have been noted in soccer, basketball, lacrosse, boxing, rugby and ice hockey. “Despite rule changes and equipment modifications aimed at reducing concussion in sport, these injuries still occur frequently,” he said. “In most sports, the incidence of recurrent injury, at 15 percent, is higher than that of the initial injury, around five percent for most contact sports, demonstrating again the overwhelming need to create a comprehensive statement to validate assessment techniques that enable the clinician to minimize the risk of additional injury.” “We are pleased the NATA position statement on managing sport-related concussions is well under way,” said Julie Max, ATC, NATA president and head athletic trainer at California State University, Fullerton. “Athletic trainers take pride in being the experts at preventing, assessing, and aggressively treating and rehabilitating injuries, so we feel it is our responsibility to take the lead in development of such a position statement. We wanted to use this month – National Athletic Training Month – to create advance awareness of concussions because it is in keeping with our ‘Injury Assessment’ theme promoted nationwide.” This month, Guskiewicz and Max will join the 30,000 athletic trainers in the United States in celebration of “National Athletic Training Month.” This year’s theme of Injury Assessment: The First Step in Treatment & Recovery is being carried out nationally, as well as in individual communities, where ATCs are hosting special events and educational activities to boost public awareness about the athletic training profession. About NATA: Certified athletic trainers (ATCs) are medical professionals who specialize in the prevention, assessment, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries and illnesses that occur to athletes and the physically active. The National Athletic Trainers' Association represents and supports the more than 30,000 members of the athletic training profession through education and research.

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