In search of concussions, school district trainers put athletes to the test

VIDEO: School district trainers test athletes for concussions
Updated: Aug. 21, 2015 at 6:20 PM EDT
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SUMMERVILLE, SC (WCSC) - It has turned into one of the hottest topics in sports: football concussions, and what can be done to prevent them.

Leagues like the NFL have turned to rule changes, while many high schools look to a rating system in search of helmets that offer the
lowest risk of concussions.

Kyle Prothro, manager of the sports medicine team at Roper St. Francis, knows there is no concussion-proof helmet, but says heightened awareness has helped reduce the frequency of concussions.

"It is a sport with inherent risks," he said. "Those risks are there, but we are doing the right things to minimize those risks."

His trainers staff practices and games throughout the Charleston County School District, often testing for signs and symptoms of a
concussion among area athletes.

Officials with the Dorchester County School District also invest in a team of trainers for practices and games, leaving the medical
calls to medical professionals.

Prothro says trainers still educate coaches on the warning signs of a concussion.  Among the biggest, is a headache.

"Pretty much everyone that has a concussion will have a headache, he said. He said symptoms of a heat illness often mirror the initial signs of a concussion, which is why trainers rely on a series of test before making a diagnosis.

One standard test, called a SCAT 3, includes a series of checklists, checking balance, concentration, and memory. When needed, training staff also administer a computerized assessment called an impact test.

The drills, many of which resemble computer games, also test cognitive function like memory, and results can be compared against the national average for age and sport.

"We can't hang our hat on just one tool," said Prothro. "We have to make sure we use multiple tools to make sure we're diagnosing these athletes and returning them safely."

State law now requires that all school districts have its own concussion policy.

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