Detecting Concussions: an Athletic Trainer and Physician Team Up

By Published On: May 29, 2018

When an athlete takes a hit to the head on the field of play, one of the first concerns is checking for a concussion. However, knowing whether they truly have a concussion can be difficult to discern. A new app co-created by an athletic trainer and a physician makes this easier by offering a step-by-step diagnosis protocol.

“It’s more than, ‘oh I got bumped in the head’ and, alright do you feel Ok? ‘yes’ OK, go back in the game,” Mark Powell, MS, ATC, CSCS, Head Athletic Trainer for the Syracuse Crunch and East Syracuse-Minoa (N.Y.) High School, told “Now we know the damage that can be done by a concussion and now that we have that knowledge, we need to take action to remove kids when they need to be removed to keep them safe.”

The “Easy Scat Sideline” app was created by Powell and Eugene Bailey, MD, a family practice physician and Associate Professor of Family Medicine at Upstate University Hospital. It provides athletic trainers and coaches with steps to follow when a player is injured so a concussion is not overlooked. The hope is that more athletes will be taken out when they should be, keeping them safe from repeat injuries through another head impact.

The app helps recognize a concussion through a series of questions. The first set helps athletic trainers and coaches  decipher whether they are facing an emergency situation, including whether the athlete lost consciousness or memory, whether they have nausea or vomiting, or if they have any neck pain over their cervical spine. Then, if the situation merits, a notification will appear that says “Emergency! Activate Emergency Procedures. Transport player to the nearest hospital.”

If the injury is not an emergency, another list of questions will help the athletic trainer or coach decide whether the athlete needs to be pulled from the competition. This includes whether the athlete has a vacant or blank look or if they are having difficulty walking or standing up. If answered yes, a popup appears letting the athletic trainer or coach know that the player should immediately stop playing until they are seen by a licensed medical provider.

Athletic trainers and coaches are also given questions to ask the player and check the state of their memory, such as who scored last in the current match, what team they played last week/game, and whether their team won the last game. Depending on whether the athlete answers right or wrong, another notification may pop up stating “Caution! Player should STOP participation and be evaluated by a licensed medical provider and should NOT continue to play.”

For now, the app is being used by about 30 schools. The expectation is that at least 40 more will have it downloaded and ready to use at the start of the 2018-19 school year.

“We kind of think of this as an iceberg, and you come up and see what’s above the ocean, with current concussion recognition really there’s only a small amount of kids being recognized,” said Dr. Bailey. “What we’re missing is below the water. With this app, we’re trying to drop the water line down so we’re seeing more and seeing more recognition.”

Concussion tools are useful in keeping players safe, but did you know they can be used for more than that? Read more in our article, “Evaluating Player Fatigue Using a Concussion-Detecting Tool.”

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