Xavier uses extensive concussion protocol in assessing student-athletes

The training room at Xavier College Prep. (Photo Courtesy of Carino Dominguez)

Concussions continue to be a hot topic especially at the high school level but in recent years, more emphasis has been put on awareness as well as implementing appropriate protocols to help schools prevent and treat these injuries.

Athletic trainers are the first line of treatment for a concussed athlete. They play a vital role at high schools to bring awareness to students, parents, and faculty about proper concussion protocol.

Many schools employ a state-licensed and nationally-certified athletic trainer and staff on campus to be on the sidelines as a student’s first contact after an injury.

Laurie White has been the head athletic trainer for Xavier College Preparatory for 11 years, state licensed and nationally certified to assess and treat student athletes.

Mrs. White works closely with the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix and concussion specialist Dr. Javier Cardenas, to improve concussion protocol for their school as well as Brophy College Prep, where her husband is the athletic director.

When a student suffers a concussion, Mrs. White explained, the coach is instructed through training to remove that student from play and refer them to their athletic trainer. Parents are also notified immediately.

At the beginning of the school year, all student-athletes enrolled in a contact sport have to take a concussion baseline test to establish a starting point.

This number is later referenced and helps the athletic trainer to know when a student is ready to return to activity if they have returned to their baseline.

“Once I see the athlete, the testing is a whole battery of things where you have to go through what’s called a SCAT5 or Sport Concussion Assessment Tool,” Mrs. White said.

“You would maybe do blood pressure, vital signs and administer a graded symptom check list. Where they would rate all the symptoms on a scale of zero to six where they would check things like cranial nerves. This assessment is quite an extensive on-site evaluation.”

Xavier College Preparatory is at 4710 N. Fifth Street in Phoenix. (submitted photo)

According to the summary of Xavier’s concussion protocol sheet developed with Barrow Neurological Institute, after these tests are administered, the child is checked on a daily basis afterwards and the parents are given an information sheet.

Students and parents can then contact their advisor and teachers to help make accommodations during their recovery.

For example, some students express a hyper-sensitivity to light and can request to wear sunglasses to class.

When a student is ready to return to activities, the athletic trainer re-administers the ImPACT, or Immediate Post Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Test, which is widely-used and a scientifically-validated computerized concussion management tool.

Once a student has been evaluated and returns to their baseline number established at the beginning of the season, the student is allowed back to competition.

Though Xavier does have an extensive protocol, other schools in the Valley do not have their own athletic trainer. This puts pressure on coaches to handle concussions.

Valley Lutheran High School junior Alena Orlando has been playing volleyball since the age of 7. Her club volleyball career began in 2014, extending her sports play to year-round.

During the 2017 club season, Orlando suffered a concussion during a tournament game.

“I just remember the ball hitting me square in the face, I saw black and just stood there stunned,” Orlando said.

Her coach took her out of play immediately and sat her at the bench where Orlando tried to grasp what had happened while her team was losing the game.

“I wasn’t thinking too much that I may have a concussion, all I cared about was my team was losing and I wanted to get back into the game,” Orlando said.

Ultimately, the coach put Orlando back in the game even though he had concluded she may have a concussion.

Orlando did not last long as the sudden onset of a strong headache began and she could no longer play.

The next day, her family doctor diagnosed her with a mild concussion and she returned to play two weeks later when her doctor approved.

Mrs. White said she shares a concern with many Valley athletic trainers about the lack of protocols at the club sports level.

“Clubs are a big problem for us right now,” she said. “Parents are paying thousands of dollars and they don’t have the right personnel in place. So, then kids will come to me, and ask what they should do in these situations and I don’t have any power over their club coach so it’s really hard for me to make recommendations to those club athletes.

“Here at the school I have complete control over the students care and continued treatment as we follow the necessary guidelines put in place for a reason. I can’t manage a concussion for club sports.”

Orlando’s mother, Anna Orlando said she, for the most part, didn’t have much issue with her daughter’s concussion experience.

“I trust the coach’s assessment of my daughter’s situation, even though I was a little upset that she was allowed back into the game, but she’s fine now and the doctor gave the OK for her to return to activity,” Ms. Orlando said.

The Arizona House of Representatives passed HB 2088, requiring schools to notify the student’s parents if the athletic trainer or coach suspect that the student suffered a concussion.

Many schools were already implementing this prior to it becoming law, but the necessity arose from parents expressing frustrations at the lack of transparency from the schools regarding the concussions their children had suffered.

Editor’s Note: Carino Dominguez is a student-journalist from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment