Strong Partnerships Key to Strong Concussion Management Protocols

[Image courtesy NIRSA: Leaders in Collegiate Recreation]
[Image courtesy NIRSA: Leaders in Collegiate Recreation]

When it comes to developing and implementing an effective concussion management protocol, there's no way to do it alone. Whether you have a team of certified athletic trainers or you're working with undergraduate student employees, it's essential that you develop and maintain strong partnerships both on and off campus to support the safety of your program participants.

Policies and procedures

The first step in developing a concussion management protocol is to establish clear policies and procedures that you're able to implement with the resources available to you. Your campus risk manager and/or legal team is a great place to start when drafting policies and procedures that align with campus policies as well as state or provincial and federal laws.

Related: Concussions and Rowan's Law

It's great practice to begin with staff when developing policies and procedures, but also remember that regular external review of your policies is also in your best interest as laws and industry standards are often changing — and having an outdated protocol can be just as damaging as having no protocol at all. Establish a regular review cycle, preferably annually, for your concussion protocol with your risk management and/or legal office.

A certified athletic trainer will be able to ensure that your policies and procedures align with their industry standards. If you don't have an athletic trainer on your team, reaching out to one in the varsity athletics program could be helpful, provided you're able to account for the differences in resources available to you. Lastly, if your protocol is going to include anything related to return to learn, you'll want to involve your campus' health center, the dean of students office, student concerns outreach, or event the provost's office, depending on how medical absences are handled on your campus. 


Once your protocol is in place, you'll also need to establish strong partnerships to implement your protocol. The chances are good that you'll be managing this protocol to some extend with student-employees. Educating staff and participants is essential to having a successful concussion management protocol. SportRisk has just released an excellent concussion training package specifically designed for collegiate recreation.

Related: SportRisk has a new concussions training package for campus recreation

You may also want to find out if there are any experts on your campus who could assist in the development or delivery of concussion education programs, such as athletic trainers (varsity athletics or an academic program), doctors from the health center, or faculty members from exercise science.

When a student is diagnosed with a concussion, campus recreation programs will want to make sure that any expectations or requirements for return to play are effectively communicated. Strong partnerships with an office that can advocate for that student, who may have to miss class or other academic requirements for several days, are also essential. Whether it's the office of the dean of students, student concerns outreach, or the health center, ensuring that the student is supported throughout the university to get the rest and downtime necessary to heal will be essential to their recovery and long-term health.

Cross-campus collaboration

Managing concussions cannot be the work of one person or even one department. To effectively develop, implement, and manage concussion protocol, you must develop strong partnerships across campus, and often into the community. But these collaborations are crucial to helping you ensure that participants in your programs are properly educated and have access to appropriate support and resources.

It is important to remember that roles and responsibilities vary from campus to campus, so the collaborations mentioned in this article may not necessarily be the best contacts on your campus. However, if you involve campus partners from the beginning and reach out to potential partners with specific needs, you may well find your way to the people and/or departments who are best suited to partner with you.

If you're able to develop strong partnerships, regardless of the resources available to you on your campus, you'll be one step closer to having an effective concussion management protocol. 

Related: Concussions and campus recreation — updates from NIRSA's Advisory Council

Jason Linsenmeyer, PhD, is currently the assistant director of recreation programs at Oklahoma State University. Larry Mellinger is currently the director of campus recreation & wellness at Elon University. 

This article was republished with permission from NIRSA: Leaders in Collegiate Recreation. Read the original here.


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