Meet Your New Advocates in Concussion Care
Certified athletic trainers (ATCs) are traditionally found at the sidelines where they serve as the first line of medical treatment in an emergency situation, and are equipped to assess for injuries such as concussions or ACL tears on the spot. But how are ATC's taking concussion treatment along with their unique skill set to the next level?
Athletic trainers can play an influential role in the management of sports concussions by treating athletes not only on the field, but in the clinical setting as physician extenders. Because athletic trainers have specialized training in recognizing and treating concussions, they can aid in patient care and can effectively increase communication. In a clinic setting, ATCs streamline care by:
- Documenting the event
- Evaluating the patient's current symptoms
- Administering cognitive testing such as ImPACT and King-Devick
- Collaborating with the treating physician in formulating a plan of care
Athletic trainers also serve as a liaison to the school for return-to-learn accommodations. Students who have sustained a concussion often have academic restrictions during the recovery process, and with concussion management on the forefront, many schools are aware that students need these types of accommodations but may not know how to implement them. The athletic trainer as a physician extender can serve as the point person between the treating physician and school administration to help transition the student back to learning at the appropriate pace, and by making specific recommendations.
The recovery process brings up many questions from both the patient and family members on topics such as treatment, ongoing symptoms, and the plan of care. Athletic trainers have the background and experience to answer these questions, and to work as a team with the treating provider to communicate with families best.
Tara Soprano is a certified athletic trainer and clinical concussion assistant to Dr. Stephen Stache at the Rothman Concussion Network and Rothman Institute. Her abstract on athletic trainers as physician extenders was presented at the 2014 National Athletic Trainers' Association Conference.