On April 14, 2011, the Nebraska Legislature passed LB 260-The Concussion Awareness Act. The Nebraska State Athletic Trainers' Association (NSATA) would like to express our appreciation for the support and passage of this important piece of legislation. However, the NSATA would also like to reiterate that the battle to increase awareness and decrease the occurrence of concussion in youth sports has only just begun.
On the national front, concussions are in the news more than ever before. During an interview on CNN with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Dr. Sharon Rogers asks, “Would you drop a child off at a pool or an ocean that didn't have a lifeguard? And if the answer is no, then you wouldn't drop a child off at a football game or a football practice without an Athletic Trainer.” Rogers is an assistant professor of health education at East Carolina University.
Some states in the United States, such as Hawaii and North Carolina, are or have already moved towards requiring an Athletic Trainer (AT) in every high school. At the same time, several states, including Nebraska, are mentioned in national news, including the New York Times, for failing to provide student-athletes access to ATs.
While more education about concussions and sports injuries is becoming available. The best defense is an AT. The AT’s primary focus is to keep student-athletes and those participating in youth sports safe.
ATs save lives. Many have heard Brady Beran’s story, when he was hit in the head during the Lincoln East vs. Lincoln Southeast football game on September 24, 2004. Veteran AT, Mike McCuistion, ATC, was on the sideline when the injury occurred and took action. Recently, Brady has graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
During the 2011 football season, Nebraska ATs saved the lives of many student-athletes. In September 2011, Don Watt, ATC, at Chadron State College took action when Dominic Morris was tackled and suffered a bleed around his brain. Also in September 2011, a Nebraska City High School football player suffered a spinal injury. Alex Schnitzer, ATC, Janice Saunders, ATC, and a team physician were at the varsity contest. They assessed the situation, provided immediate care at the scene; spine boarded the athlete, and transported him to the local Emergency Room for diagnostic testing. Elsewhere in Nebraska, Pierce High School Senior football player Shelton Dvorak suffered a brain hemorrhage when he was hit during the Pierce vs. Albion Boone Central football game on September 30, 2011. ATs Adam Hervert, ATC, and Aliscia Benes, ATC, and physician Brad Hupp, MD, took action to save the student-athlete’s life. Dvorak was life flighted to BryanLGH West Medical Center in Lincoln where he was in a coma for five days. Dvorak admits he was lucky to have survived.
ATs are THE health care professional to provide sports medicine services to student athletes. Athletic Trainers should be part of every high school medical team.
All too often, athletics programs ignore providing appropriate medical care for secondary school aged athletes. While Bob Colgate, the assistant director of the National Federation of State High School Associations acknowledges budgetary restraints are often the reason; Robert Sallis, of the American College of Sports Medicine, explained “It’s crazy. High schools hire a zillion coaches before they wonder about hiring a(n) (athletic) trainer. If you hire a head football coach, that next hire should be an athletic trainer.” Brooke de Lench, Founder of MomsTeam.com, highlights the critical importance of athletic trainers and agrees.
ATs take responsibility and reduce risk and liability. I invite you to participate in a Call to Action to ensure youth athletes have access to qualified health care professionals every day.
Written By: Jessica O’Neel, MS Ed, ATC