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Athletic Trainers' Association Releases New Concussion-Management Statement

The National Athletic Trainers' Association released a new position statement on sports-related-concussion management on Monday at the fifth annual Youth Sports Safety Summit in Washington.

The statement, which will be published in the March issue of the Journal of Athletic Training, contains recommendations for the management of sports-related concussions based on recent scientific evidence. It's an update to the association's original sports-related-concussion management position statement, released back in 2004.

In terms of education and prevention, the statement recommends that athletic trainers use the terms "concussion" and "mild traumatic brain injury" instead of words like "ding" or "bell ringer." Athletic trainers should also educate coaches, athletes, and parents about how protective equipment might fall short in terms of preventing concussions, the association says.

Athletes in contact and collision sports should undergo baseline concussion tests before the start of an athletic season on an annual basis, the statement suggests, which should include a clinical history, physical and neurologic evaluations, and measures of motor control and neurocognitive function. By establishing such baselines, medical professionals would have information about a student-athlete's typical levels of brain function, which could help in terms of diagnosing concussions.

The statement echoes most states' youth-concussion laws in suggesting that any student-athlete suspected of a concussion should be immediately removed from play and not allowed to return that same day. It also calls for no concussed student-athlete returning to play until receiving clearance from a medical professional.

In terms of youth-athletes specifically, the statement warns that recovery from a concussion may take longer than it will for adults, and thus may require a longer return-to-play progression. It also suggests that school administrators and teachers should remain flexible in terms of academic accommodations for student-athletes who have recently suffered a concussion. (The American Academy of Pediatrics made a similar recommendation last October.)

"With the continued national spotlight on concussions from professional to youth sports, these recommendations provide a practical roadmap for athletic trainers, physicians, and other medical professionals on injury identification and management," said Steven P. Broglio, the lead author of the position statement and the director of the Neurosport Research Lab in the School of Kinesiology at the University of Michigan, in a statement. "We also hope this document will serve as an educational tool for parents and school administrators." 

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