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New Youth Sports Concussion Certification to Address Growing Inadequacy of Awareness and Education

by Anne Spencer | Aug 11, 2014

August 11, 2014

American College of Sports Medicine, Sports Concussion Institute, Youth Sports Collaborative to Offer Dual-Level Credentials

INDIANAPOLIS – In an effort to address growing concerns regarding concussions among young athletes, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the Sports Concussion Institute (SCI) announced they will be partnering on the development of new credentialing programs for health professionals, coaches, parents and other stakeholders. Going beyond awareness and education, these certifications will help youth sports workers meet state concussion requirements and guidelines, and will better position them to help optimize the safety and ensure full recovery of youth athletes before returning to academics and play.

State laws governing youth sports concussion have called for and generated demand for education in recognition and proper management of sport-related concussion, including determining when there is a potential concussion and when the athlete should be removed from practice, training and competition with potential accommodations for school work.

“Education is certainly one part of the equation,” said Michael Bergeron, Ph.D., executive director, National Youth Sports Health & Safety Institute. “But there needs to be an ongoing strong examination and certification process that ensures that people who play a critical role in preventing, recognizing and responding to head trauma and concussions in youth sports actually have the current and sufficient knowledge and can effectively apply it.”   

Working together with a network of organizations that advocate for youth sports and health, ACSM and SCI will focus on two distinct credentials. “We’re creating the education and assessment programs, based on the knowledge, skills and abilities needed for dual levels of certification,” said Bill Dexter, M.D., 2013 – 2014 president of ACSM. “The need is real and growing fast. We want to ensure that key stakeholders know how to recognize a possible concussion, what steps to take and how to direct youth athletes to medical professionals, so they can safely return to activities related to living and participating in sports.”

Each level of certification will be designed to meet the unique needs and experience of the following:

  • On-the-field health professionals responsible for recognizing the signs and symptoms of a concussion and removing an athlete from play. These professionals typically have some health care experience, but may not be specialists in concussion treatment; and
  • Nonprofessionals, such as coaches and parents, who often are the only adults on the sidelines at youth games and desire a credential – similar in nature to those in first-aid and cardio-pulmonary resuscitation – that would provide enhanced understanding of concussion and how to recognize it.

Scientific evaluation and analysis underway underscores that education alone often does not improve or change skills or patterns in regard to prevention and recognition of sports concussions.  “The need has been growing for such highly reliable and scientifically sound certification exams that actually test the mastery and application of knowledge in regard to sports concussions,” said Sally Johnson, executive director for the National Council of Youth Sports (NCYS) that represents more than 200 organizations. “Youth sports needs the assurance that people playing keys roles with concussions can apply that knowledge and are recognized for having that mastery.”

A critical component of this effort will be significant inter-organizational collaboration with various youth sports, medical and associated stakeholders.

“Because safety has always been the top priority at Pop Warner, we recognize the need for all of us in youth sports to be educated in recognizing the symptoms of head injuries and knowing how to follow up appropriately on them,” said Jon Butler, Pop Warner’s executive director. “This program will help ensure that our coaches are getting the knowledge they need to be prepared if they’re ever faced with this scenario.”

ACSM is a recognized leader in continuing education for health professionals and in certification, offering eight credentials in specialties such as Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist® and collaborating with other organizations to offer Certified Cancer Exercise TrainerSM and Certified Inclusive Fitness TrainerSM designations. Plans are for the concussion certifications to be accredited by the prominent National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).

The Sports Concussion Institute (SCI) comprises a network of top experts in sports concussion management and rehabilitation for athletes at every level. SCI convenes the renowned Annual National Summit on Sports Concussion, bringing together leading scientists and clinicians to educate team physicians, certified athletic trainers, therapists, coaches and parents regarding state of the art evaluation and clinical management of concussion.

“We are excited about assisting the public and protecting young athletes in ensuring those who are in a position to do so much to prevent, recognize, and respond to concussions in sports have demonstrative expertise and certification in regard to concussions and youth sport participants,” said SCI CEO Tony Strickland, Ph.D. With SCI’s extensive experience in the breadth of concussions and health, together with ACSM’s highly respected programs for professional education and certification, we are highly confident about filling this need to train and certify those who work with youth athletes.”

Background on state concussion laws

All states and the District of Columbia have laws modeled on or similar to the Zackery Lystedt Law enacted in the State of Washington in 2009. These laws tend to require educating coaches, youth athletes, and parents about recognizing signs and symptoms of concussion and what steps to take, removal from play or practice if concussion is suspected and return to play or practice only after clearance by a medical professional knowledgeable in the evaluation and management of concussion. The laws vary in regard to their scope (school athletics or all youth sports) and which professionals are authorized to make return-to-play decisions. Many have specific requirements such as for return to play only after clearance by “a licensed medical professional knowledgeable in the evaluation and management of concussion.” As concussion laws are implemented around the U.S., those who administer youth sports programs have asked for a reliable way to prepare health professionals, coaches, parents, and others who can help them meet state standards.

The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 45,000 international, national and regional members and certified professionals are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine. ACSM recently launched the National Youth Sports Health & Safety Institute in partnership with Sanford Health. Other signature programs include the Exercise is Medicine® global health initiative and the ACSM American Fitness Index®. In addition, ACSM leads or actively participates in a number of partnerships, coalitions and initiatives such as the Aspen Institute Sports & Society/Project Play, the National Physical Activity Plan, National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, and the National Foundation for Governor’s Fitness Councils and the National Physical Activity Guidelines Coalition. Together with strong support from the NFL, the ACSM-led National Coalition on Youth Sport Concussion is an advocate for passage and implementation of laws based on the Zackery Lystedt Law.

The Sports Concussion Institute is a full-service institute providing education, clinical management, and research on the evolving science of sport-induced concussion and associated neurobehavioral disorders. SCIdevelops innovative programming to dramatically improve the quality of concussion management and provide comprehensive approaches to sports concussion evaluation, diagnosis, management, and prevention to athletes across their lifespan. SCI addresses the needs of athletes at all levels, from youth sports to professional that play high-velocity sports. Using a multidisciplinary strategy, concussed athletes are treated in an individualized manner to facilitate recovery and safe return to play, school, work, and ultimately life. SCI’s innovative “Preventive Intervention” program includes education, awareness, and state-of-the-art intervention that involve its three specialty clinics: Concussion and Balance Disorders, Pain Management, and Memory Disorders. SCI is the trusted clinical partner to athletes, parents, trainers, coaches, corporate partners, and associated stakeholders both nationally and in select global markets.

 

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