Community Approach

November 2, 2018


When a high school student-athlete sustains a concussion, their successful recovery depends on the efforts of a number of people, both inside the school and out. How do you bridge the gap between school employees who see the injured athlete every day and off-site medical personnel? In Craig, Colo., the Moffat County School District and Northwest Colorado Community Health Center overcame this hurdle by forming the Craig-Concussion Action Team (C-CAT).

The idea was spearheaded by Frani Jenkins, ATC, PA-C, Physician Assistant at Northwest Colorado Community Health Center. “The goal was to involve people from the school and from the community to see if we could manage concussions more consistently across the board,” she says.

The group consists of Jenkins, Moffat High School’s athletic trainer, its school nurse, an orthopedic surgeon, and a licensed clinical social worker, who meet once a month to discuss best practices and recent research. “The team helps standardize protocols in order to provide the best outcomes,” explains Jenkins.

Those protocols are then relayed to everyone involved in a student-athlete’s recovery, which typically includes medical professionals at the health center, the student’s parents, and school staff. This ensures everyone is on the same page and supporting the athlete appropriately.

Clear lines of communication are a key part of the process. “When I see a concussed student in my clinic, I fill out a student activities and academic accommodation form and send it to the school nurse and the athletic trainer,” says Jenkins. “The athletic trainer then communicates with the student, parents, coaches, and athletic director about my recommendations, and the school nurse makes certain that the school psychologist and the student’s teachers receive the appropriate information about putting academic accommodations in place.”

Another aspect of the C-CAT’s work is education. “We teach parents, coaches, teachers, administrators, and athletes what a mild traumatic brain injury is and what symptoms to look for,” says Jenkins. The team also gives presentations to school staff on return-to-learn and return-to-play policies and has put together a video about the various ways concussions can affect students.

While the C-CAT’s work is most prevalent at the high school, it extends into the community, as well, engaging younger students and those involved in club sports. “We have reached out to teachers, health techs, and administrators at the elementary schools to talk about children falling and hitting their heads on the playground and appropriate concussion management at younger ages,” Jenkins says. “Ice hockey is not a school sport at Moffat, but there are clubs. Rodeo is also popular here. Our goal is to implement standardized protocols across the board, even for kids that don’t fall under the high school’s domain.”

This article appeared in the November 2018 issue of Training & Conditioning.

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