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Aug. 24 2009 12:00 AM

In light of concussion injuries in professional sports this past week, including that of the Mets’ David Wright who is now on the team’s disabled list until further notice, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association offers key recommendations to reduce the onset of this condition in recreational, school or elite sports. Most importantly says Kevin Guskiewicz, PhD, ATC, lead author of the sport related concussion position statement spearheaded by NATA is “when in doubt sit it out. Concussions are by far the most common, and one of the most dangerous, injuries seen in sports today and we can prevent the onset of this potentially fatal condition with proper prevention techniques and awareness.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that between 1.6 and 3.8 million brain injuries occur in sports each year.

Among NATA’s key recommendations:
  • 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 writing team discourages the use of the term “ding” to describe even the mildest form of concussion.
  • 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). The writing team strongly recommends that high schools, colleges and professional teams institute a testing program that incorporates baseline testing of athletes.
  • Once symptom-free, the athlete should be reassessed to establish that cognition and postural stability have returned to normal for that player.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Athletes with a suspected concussion should not return to participation on the same day of the injury, with the rare exception being if their symptoms resolve within a few minutes and they remain asymptomatic following rest and exertion for at least 20 minutes."
  • Athletes who experience loss of consciousness or amnesia should be disqualified from participating on the day of the injury.
  • 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.
  • Any athlete with a concussion should be instructed to rest, but complete bed rest is not recommended.
  • 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.
For more information please visit: http://www.nata.org/statements/position/concussion.pdf.

The National Athletic Trainers' Association (www.nata.org) represents and supports 30,000 members of the athletic training profession. Only 42 percent of high schools have access to athletic trainers. NATA members adhere to a code of ethics. NATA supports the right of all patients to have equal access to the services of athletic trainers through the Athletic Trainers’ Equal Access to Medicare Act (H.R. 1137).

In light of concussion injuries in professional sports this past week, including that of the Mets

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