The United States Sports Academy is addressing the growing concern over sport-related concussions through a partnership to reduce the impact of concussions on athletes in the area’s public schools, as well as by providing a free online course to help sport leaders everywhere better protect athletes against concussion.
The Academy is teaming up with the University of South Alabama (USA) and the Mobile County Public School System (MCPSS) to reduce the frequency and long-term impact of concussions on athletes in the school system.
Under the Concussions Awareness Program (CAP), funded in part by a grant from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to USA, the two institutions are developing procedures for use by the school system to better protect student athletes from the negative health consequences of concussion.
Dr. Vincent K. Ramsey, the Academy’s chair of sports exercise science, says the partnership is aimed at protecting all student athletes.
“This program is designed to help athletes and coaches understand concussions and look for signs of concussion during play,” he said. “The object is to increase the recognition of concussion so as to make the best decisions related to removal from play, treatment and return to play.
“We now know that even mild concussions can sometimes have long-term effects, so the goal is to minimize the risk as much as possible in young athletes.”
The first aspect of the program is educational, as the CAP team of professionals from the Academy and USA has met with coaches, trainers and athletic leaders throughout the school system to raise understanding and awareness of concussion. CAP also provides student athletes, coaches, trainers and parents with an online tutorial application to evaluate and build upon their knowledge of concussion. Student athletes are required to complete the tutorial as part of this pilot program.
A second element of the program relates to ensuring that athletes with concussions are given proper medical treatment and not allowed to resume competing until medically cleared. This is achieved by medical intervention and by standardized neurocognitive testing.
Under the new protocol, players suspected to have suffered concussions cannot resume competition unless released by Dr. Anthony Martino, chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery in the USA College of Medicine. Martino has practiced neurosurgery for 25 years and has been actively involved in championing head injury prevention programs.
The neurocognitive testing component is achieved by each player taking two tests before the start of the season — an online neurological assessment and a neurological balance test. Both of these tests establish the athlete’s normal neurological function. If an athlete experiences a concussion or suspected concussion, the tests are taken again. The athlete is not allowed to return to play until it is determined he or she has returned to the previous normal level of neurological function.
The CAP program is starting with football, which has the greatest amount of contact, but will touch on all sports in which concussion is a risk factor, Ramsey said.
Besides assisting with the educational and concussion standardized screening portions of the program, Academy faculty are gathering and analyzing the data from athletes to determine the effectiveness of the program and to drive policy decisions in the future regarding protection of student athletes.
In addition to Ramsey and Martino, collaborating on the CAP program are Dr. Ashley Marass, a pediatric nurse practitioner and assistant professor in the USA College of Nursing; Mary Wilstup, a registered nurse in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital; Dr. Benjamin Hill, assistant professor of clinical neuropsychology at USA; and Dr. Brandon Spradley, director of sports management at the Academy.
For more information about the CAP program or to use the concussion application, go to
In addition to the CAP program, the Academy recently has begun offering a free online course, “Sport-Related Concussions.” The course provides an in-depth review of the risks, prevention, recognition, treatment and management of sport-related concussions. The course also discusses the importance of awareness and education strategies for coaches, athletes, parents, administrators, and health care professionals. The course is available by going to the Academy home page at www.ussa.edu/freecourses.
Based in Daphne, Ala., the United States Sports Academy is an independent, non-profit, regionally accredited, special mission sports university created to serve the nation and world with programs in instruction, research, and service. The role of the Academy is to prepare men and women for careers in the profession of sports. For more information about the Academy, call (251) 626-3303 or visit www.ussa.edu.