UM Athletic Training Program implements concussion training program

from Lauren Lucas

University of Mississippi

Nick Ramsey (left), a freshman athletic training student at the University of Mississippi in Chesapeake Bay, Virginia, is training on the concussion training module with Heather Landry Shirley, assistant professor and program director of athletic training. Photo by Thomas Graning / Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

The director of a University of Mississippi program aimed at preparing prospective health professionals to serve as exercise coaches is working to assess college students’ knowledge and attitudes about athletic concussion in response to concussion education.

Heather Shirley, Assistant Professor and Director of the Master of Science in Athletic Training program, is working with students on the program to deliver a concussion training module. This program is designed to better educate athletes, physically active individuals, and others about the signs and symptoms of a concussion.

This module is used in conjunction with a new Concussion Policy for students participating in sports clubs through the Department of Campus Recreation. Both the training module and the concussion policy were imparted to the students on the master’s course, who, as part of their responsibility for the safety of recreational athletes, are then responsible for passing on the information to the sports club’s safety officers and for monitoring this fall.

“Once they graduate and take the certification exam, these students become certified sports coaches,” said Shirley. “Practicing concussion awareness and recognizing the signs and symptoms is something you must be able to do.

“We’re just trying to get them to do this more and get them involved early on in the implementation of programs and policies like this one.”

As another aspect of the program, athletes from sports clubs will receive a basic concussion test through the University’s Center for Health and Athletic Performance, using the immediate post-concussion assessment and cognitive testing tool. Students watch a video designed to teach the Concussion Education module and complete a pre-survey before participating in any activity.

After the activity, they will conduct a follow-up interview to help Shirley and her team evaluate the success and effectiveness of the program.

“Unfortunately, concussions are common in sports, and particularly common in contact sports,” said Byron Watts, an athletic training student from Fort Hood, Texas. “As a coach, it is important to be prepared for any sport as we can potentially land anywhere. I believe that much of what I learned from Heather can be carried over into my future work.

“I’ve learned a lot about the mechanisms of injury from a concussion, which can result from multiple small impacts or one large impact.”

Brain injuries can be classified as a coup, which affects the part of the brain directly below where an impact occurs, or a counter-coup, in which the brain hits the skull on the opposite side of the impact, he explained.

“I also realized why it is so important to get an athlete through the concussion protocol properly without rushing them,” said Watts. “A concussion affects everyone differently, and since it is an injury to the brain, it is imperative to treat it properly.”

At the end of the sporting season, Shirley and her colleagues plan to conduct further evaluations through a post-season survey to assess the overall change in the program in terms of concussion education and injury reporting.

The University of Mississippi Medical Center is primarily involved from a research design perspective. The faculty will support some of the data analysis once the project has completed its final phase.

Shirley works with co-investigator Melinda Valliant, chair of the UM Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management; Jennifer Reneker, Assistant Dean of Scientific Innovation and Associate Professor of Population Health Sciences at UMMC; Courtney Kinder, qualified athletics trainer in Campus Recreation; Marshall Crowther, a doctor in the Student Health Service and medical director, Intercollegiate Athletics; and Alex Langhart, director of Student Health Services, on treating these types of injuries in the future.

Further information on the master’s course in athletic training can be found at https://sas.olemiss.edu/MSAT/.



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