HSHS sports medicine program aids athletes with concussions

The HSHS Athletes Advantage program provides certified athletic trainers to high school’s around the area, including O’Fallon Township High School.

“We have 14 athletic trainers and we cover nine high schools, Greenville University, and SWIC,” HSHS program coordinator Jamie Wagner said.

The Athletes Advantage program’s athletic trainers’ provide medical coverage for varsity team practices and games.

“We also do some volunteer things – we have worked with the Belleville Marathon the last couple of years and provide medical coverage there. We host a 5k in November that we work at and we provide summer camp opportunities in Breese with our athletic trainers – they work on strength conditioning and speed agility,” Wagner said.

One sports-related issue that gets a lot of attention these days is identifying and treating concussions. Athletes Advantage offers ImPACT® Concussion Testing, which utilizes a computer-based neuro-cognitive function test, or simply an “impact test.”

According to Wagner, the impact test is “pretty much the gold standard.” It is utilized by colleges, Nascar, and the NFL. Its purpose is to provide baseline testing followed by follow-up testing for concussion patients and athletes and facilitates treatment to help get the individuals back to their sport.

On average, Wagner said, “Every concussion is different. Every person is different. It depends how long their symptoms last but a typical concussion usually lasts around ten days.”

Wagner also points out that people tend to buy the most expensive helmet that they can on the market. “The helmets are fantastic for reducing the impact, but they’re not going to prevent you from getting a concussion,” Wagner said.

She said that the severity of a concussion ranges depending on the person, but it’s not the concussion itself that is severe. “It’s the symptoms and cognitive issues that come along with it,” she said. 

Post-testing for concussed athletes is provided through HSHS Medical Group Multispecialty Care clinic in O’Fallon.

“We have three physicians in O’Fallon that actually do the post-testing for us,” Wagner said.

Wagner said an individual with a concussion would have symptoms of a headache, blurry vision, ringing in their ears, nausea, and confusion but is sometimes hard to tell for an untrained person. 

“You might look at someone and they seem like they’re fine, but mentally they are not right and you should probably have them looked at,” Wagner said. The Athletes Advantage trainers always ask the athletes if they know where they are or if they know the score of the game.

“We also check their vision to see if they have any issues and check their balance,” she said. “Those are some sideline things that we do to determine if someone has a concussion.”

HSHS Athletes Advantage covers all “contact” sports, which take priority because of the obvious increased opportunity for a head injury to occur, noted Wagner. The contact sports with the most at-risk athletes, according to Wagner, are football, soccer, cheerleading, baseball and softball.  O’Fallon also has Lacrosse, so that’s an additional contact sport that is covered. 

“We proudly provide service for all varsity home events and cover everything else in between that we can,” Wagner said.