NATA Zeros in on Concussions with National Action Plan for Sports Safety

The National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) made concussions a primary focus at the 4th annual Youth Sports Safety Summit in Washington, DC earlier this week

NATA, which organized the event, worked with other entities to prepare the first-ever “National Action Plan for Sports Safety,” which touches on four major areas—Cardiac Events, Neurologic Injuries, Environmental/Exertional Conditions, and Dietary/Substance-Induced Conditions.

NATA President Jim Thornton, MA, ATC, CES, suggested that events in the aforementioned areas “can be largely prevented, managed and treated if the right protocols are in place, and properly trained medical personnel including athletic trainers are available to provide immediate care. Only 42 percent of U.S. secondary schools have access to athletic trainers.”

The recommendations pertaining to each of those areas can be viewed here:

http://www.youthsportssafetyalliance.org/docs/National-Action-Plan.pdf

The emphasis on concussions was evident on the roster of speakers. Among those in the field were: Charles Gfeller, Esq. who addressed risk management for schools and recommended sports safety protocols; Kevin Guskiewicz, PhD, ATC, of the Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, who addressed the changing culture of play; and Chris Nowinski, Sports Legacy Institute, who talked about his experience with and perspective on concussions.

NATA has been active in other ways on the concussion front as well. In December, the association and the NATA Research & Education Foundation announced their participation and partial funding of the Consensus Study of Sports-related Concussions in Youth, which is being conducted by the Institute of Medicine.

The 15-member IOM Committee on Sports-Related Concussion in Youth was recently formed to study concussions in youth, from elementary school through young adulthood, including military personnel and their dependents. The final statement is expected to be issued in December 2013.

“There has been continued public awareness, media attention and medical research dedicated to head-related injuries and the acute and chronic effects from concussion,” says NATA Foundation President Mark Hoffman, PhD, ATC. “NATA and the NATA Foundation are honored to be a part of this esteemed team of experts through our $50,000 sponsorship and our submission of names of secondary school colleagues and researchers who will serve as resources to the working group.” The NATA Foundation is the only non-governmental sponsor of the consensus study.

Tracey Covassin, PhD, ATC, associate professor at Michigan State University and a leading concussion researcher, will serve on the committee and as the voice of the athletic training profession.

The committee will review current literature on concussions, their causes and the relationship of hits to the head during sport, effectiveness of protective devices and equipment, screening and diagnosis, prevention, management and treatment. Specific topics of interest include:

  • The short and longer-term effects of single and repetitive concussive and non-concussive head impacts on the brain.
  • Risk factors for sports concussion, post-concussive syndrome and chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
  • The spectrum of cognitive, affective and behavioral changes that can occur as a result of head injuries.
  • Physical and biological triggers and threshold for injury.
  • Hospital and non-hospital diagnostic tools.
  • Biomechanics of head injury and the effects of selected helmet designs.
  • The work of public health agencies, professional sports associations and state legislatures to promote awareness of the risks and consequences of concussive injury, return to play decisions and the increased use of neurological tests for diagnostic purposes.

Dates and agendas for future open sessions of the committee will be posted online at http://www.iom.edu/Activities/Children/YouthSportsConcussions.aspx. Visitors to the site are encouraged to click the “Sign Up Now” button on the right hand side of the page to join the project list serv.

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