Georgia Health Sciences athletic trainers are using a real-time software application to help evaluate concussions in high school athletes during play.
When a player is injured, the athletic trainer enters pertinent patient data via smart phone, tablet or laptop into the Concussion Vital Signs portal, a protected Internet connection, where the level of concussion is scored based on the Sport Concussion Assessment Tool, or SCAT2, the global standardized method of evaluating athletes age 10 and older for concussion.
“Our priority is always the health and well-being of the athlete when deciding what to do after a potential injury,” said Tim McLane, GHS Sports Medicine Center’s Head Athletic Trainer. “Based on the severity, we send the player to the emergency room, set up an urgent appointment with neurology, or simply have the athlete sit out play or practice for a specified period of time.”
The concussion program also incorporates preseason baseline scores on at-risk athletes. Using a 25-minute computer-based neurocognitive test administered at schools, trainers determine each athlete’s baseline ability to react, recall, recognize and differentiate. Injured players are re-evaluated on the sidelines.
“By having a baseline, we have an individualized comparison available during emergent situations. Comparing the two scores allows us to pick up any changes in neurocognitive function and determine the next steps to take,” McLane said.
If no baseline is available on an injured player, the software provides data on more than 320,000 patients worldwide according to age, gender and other common factors at the touch of a few buttons. “So even if we don’t have a baseline, we can access a representative population of patient information to compare to for a quick, accurate assessment of the injury on the field,” McLane said.
“Overall, the new process allows for a fast, objective means to determine if someone is ready to return to play,” McLane said. “Concussions can be serious, and the damage can be cumulative if athletes are not given proper time to recover. Our ultimate goal as athletic trainers is to protect these young athletes.”
Additionally, the GHS Sports Medicine Center is developing a Sports Concussion Center staffed by GHS Sports Medicine and Neurology physicians to help better recognize these injuries and address the growing concern over short- and long-term effects of head injuries in athletes.
For more information, call 706-721-PLAY (7529) or visit georgiahealth.org/sports.