Recently, researchers from the University of Delaware and Georgia Southern University looked at how athletic trainers in DII and DIII settings approach their concussion management. Overall the researchers found that the use of a multifaceted baseline concussion assessment was limited. However, the researchers did find that the overall practice patterns were consistent with recommendations made by the NCAA. The use of objective assessments were also less than their DI counterparts. Finally, the use of a neuropsychologist to interpret the testing was very limited.
The researchers initially sent out thousands of emails to DII and DIII athletic trainers. Some demographics they found were that 82.8% of DII and 85.6% of DIII athletic trainers had a master’s degree. Furthermore most of the ways that athletic trainers learned about concussions was through research articles, position statements, and conferences. 43.1% of DII and 40.1% of DIII athletic trainers reported using a multifaceted concussion assessment at baseline.
Surprisingly, 27.5% of all the athletic trainers surveyed said that they used either 1 or 0 techniques to acquire a baseline from athletes, and 7.7% reported they use 0 baseline assessments. The two most cited reasons for not performing balance testing was not enough staff /not enough money or that they used other testing so they didn’t have to use balance testing. For highly educated individuals it is discouraging that more than 1/4th of all athletic trainers surveyed they either did not conduct or only conducted one test to measure a baseline for concussion. Furthermore, athletic trainers should have the resources to conduct more baseline testing in order for the medical team to make a better decision about the particular player’s health status.
Within the return to play policies the vast majority of athletic trainers used a multifaceted approach to return to play. However, there was a small but significant group (10.8%) that reported using 1 or no tools to return athletes to play. This astonishing figure signals that the NCAA still has some work to do in order to achieve better outcomes for athletes.
In spite of some seemingly low numbers that do not comply with the NCAA best practices it is encouraging to compare AT’s at DII and DII with physicians, according to Rigby et. al. (2013) 24.3% of respondents did not perform baseline testing. This finding suggests that AT’s within the collegiate setting are much better than some of their counterparts at performing baseline testing.
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