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The Importance of Athletic Trainers & The Dangers of Concussions
Written by Erin MacPherson
Last updated on October 17, 2013 @ 7:29PM
Created on October 17, 2013 @ 7:10PM

It's been almost two weeks since a football player at South Harrison High School passed away. Ever since family, friends, and the community have been mourning for the lose of Dylan Jeffries. This incident really got 5 News thinking about the true dangers of concussions and the importance of having athletic trainers at every football event.

5 News talked to a Certified Athletic Trainer for West Virginia Wesleyan College. Some shocking information about our state law and how dangerous concussions really can be was revealed.

Drew Mason, Certified Athletic Trainer for West Virginia Wesleyan College, said, "Our number one priority is always prevention. So prevention is probably our number one concern to start with. How do we keep things from happening?"

State law says there must be an athletic trainer or football trainer at every high school football practice and every high school football game, but that's not always the case.

"I think the ideology behind it is there is a limited amount of ATCs in the state of West Virginia. With limited availability that allows Department of Education another resource for football coverage," said Mason.

If a school can't get an athletic trainer they can get a waiver to have an EMT or even an RN cover these events, but athletic trainers are supposed to be there because they specialize in sports injuries.

"Every certified athletic trainer has to go through a four year undergrad, bachelor science degree. Most of them, like myself, will go on and pursue a graduate degree. The skill ranges from anything from prevention of injury all the way up to first aid, injury evaluation,  emergency care, and rehabilitation," said Mason.

How many schools does this affect?

"116 high schools that support the sport of football in the state of WV," said Mason.

Out of those 116 only 40% have an at for their football program and 62% don't get coverage for any other sport. Mason told 5 News this worries him because one of the major issues they deal with is a concussion. Nationwide there are almost 4 million a year.

"The danger of concussion is that we don't know everything we need to know about the brain, the developing brain, or even the adult brain. The other problem with concussion is it's not something I can see. It's not like evaluating a knee, finger, or ankle. There's a lot more that goes into it and the skill set to do that is pretty significant. The second one is where I start to get really concerned. The biggest thing to return to play is simple, it's asymptomatic. So that means that athlete has no symptoms, none," said Mason.

Mason said if there was an advocate for the student athlete, they would be better off because there always seems to be someone that's pushing the athlete to get back to play.

"That might be a coach who wants a kid back really soon, that might be a parent who wants their kid back on the playing field, or it may even be the athlete themselves. The biggest thing is to give a student athlete a health care provider who's going to look out for the best interest of the athlete and nothing else," said Mason.

Another way to help is education.

"A lot of the people don't envision the head being any different than the rest of the body and the fact of the matter is that it's very different. We're lacking on educating the parents and educating the public on how dangerous this really can be," said Mason.

Regardless of what emergency happens, every school needs to have an emergency action plan.

"Basically the plan comes down to parts, who's suppose to do what when. Simply calling 911 is not an emergency action plan," said Mason.

Parents should ask if their kids have certified athletic trainers by talking to school officials.


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