Sep 21, 2016
Concussion Course for Docs

This article first appeared in the October 2016 issue of Training & Conditioning.

When it comes to concussion management, both athletic trainers and doctors want student-athletes to return to play safely. But these two groups don’t always see eye-to-eye on the best way to achieve this, due in part to some physicians not being up-to-date on proper head injury treatment. To remedy this problem, the Pennsylvania Athletic Trainers’ Society (PATS) has created an online concussion education program for doctors called ConcussionWise DR.

“Athletic trainers were getting frustrated because we’d advise concussed athletes to follow our return-to-play protocol and see how they felt in a week. But then they would get a doctor’s note saying they could return to activity in a day or two if they felt better,” says John Moyer, LAT, ATC, Past President of the PATS and Head Athletic Trainer at Wilson High School in West Lawn, Pa. “Instead of being allies with doctors in the battle against concussions, we were at odds with some of them.”

To get the groups on the same page, the PATS teamed up with the Pennsylvania Department of Health to utilize a four-year, $400,000 Health Resources and Services Administration Traumatic Brain Injury grant, which was earmarked for concussion education. The plan was to create an online course for physicians that presented the same research, position statements, and protocols covered in state laws on concussion management for athletic trainers. Once physicians completed the course, they’d be entered into a public online database that indicated they’d taken part.

When deciding what information to include in ConcussionWise DR, the PATS solicited input from six organizations within the state: the Pennsylvania Academy of Family Physicians, the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Pennsylvania College of Emergency Physicians, the Pennsylvania Neurological Society, the Pennsylvania Orthopedic Society, and the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Society. Together, the groups devised five modules for the course-which launched late in 2014-each covering a specific aspect of concussion management, such as treatment, prevention, and post-injury care. There are short questions for doctors to answer after each module.

While collaboration on course content proved easy, convincing physicians to actually take ConcussionWise DR has been tougher. “One of the difficulties we’ve run into is that some doctors feel they already know everything they need to about concussion,” Moyer says. “So we’re trying to showcase the value of the course by highlighting its unique aspects. We emphasize that the information in it comes from respected medical groups and uses the most up-to-date research and position statements.”

The PATS is also offering incentives to get more physicians on board. “We’ve mailed out more than 3,000 personal invitations to encourage doctors to take the course, advertised it in Pennsylvania Medical Society literature, offered continuing medical education units for any physician who completes the course, and waived the $59 fee,” Moyer says. “So far, about 200 doctors have taken ConcussionWise DR. But we’re still working hard to get the word out. We’ve asked athletic trainers to talk to doctors in their areas about the need for us to work together on concussions.”

Although there’s still work to be done with ConcussionWise DR, Moyer believes that the program has already improved the doctor-athletic trainer relationship in the state. “When everyone has access to the latest information, we can present a united front to athletes in the fight against concussions,” he says. “That’s what this program allows us to do.”

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