Staying AHEAD of the Game

by Janel Carter, PT, DPT, ATC
August 16, 2019

Fall high school and club sports seasons are gearing up to go which brings to mind the excitement of hard hitting football games, powerful kicks and headers during soccer matches, high flying cheerleading stunts, and spectacular dives in the pool and on the volleyball court. There are countess positive attributes associated with playing these team sports but it is also important to discuss and raise awareness about safety concerns to keep the well-being of youth athletes a top priority. One of these widely discussed topics is concussion.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines concussion as “a type of traumatic brain injury-or TBI- caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth.” These are complex injuries, unique to each individual, and can have serious effects on the brain and body. Early identification of symptoms and treatment from a trained healthcare professional for safe return to daily activities and play is crucial. For more facts related to this, follow the link (Concusssions), but otherwise let’s rewind… Is there a way to prevent sport related concussion in the first place?

Nothing can completely prevent a concussion, but here are a few things to consider BEFORE an injury happens to injury reduce risk and/or improve recovery!

  • Enforce equipment use: to reduce risk of traumatic injury to head and face, certified helmet use should be enforced (Broglio et al., 2014). In general, all equipment should be used as intended by the manufacturer and be in good condition with no damage or loose pieces.
  • Teach safe technique: in soccer or football, for example, players can be taught to avoid leading with their heads when making contact with other players. In volleyball, players can be made aware of techniques to dive avoiding contact to the ground with their head or face. Cheerleaders and divers, can be encouraged to learn new maneuvers only under coach supervision and to always practice with appropriate spotting and padding.
  • Encourage sportsmanship: in any sport, avoiding aggressive and unfair play can reduce unnecessary collisions and excessive trauma to the brain or body.
  • Training: there is emerging research suggesting improved reaction time may help an athlete anticipate and protect themselves from a blow to the head, face, or body (Honda, Chang & Kim, 2018).
  • Education of coaches, parents, athletes and administrators: it is recommended everyone involved in athletic participation should be made aware of what a concussion is, mechanism of injury, and prevention strategies. As mentioned, these individuals should also know how recognize symptoms plus when and how to access a trained healthcare provider to discuss treatment avenues, outcomes, and safe return to sport and cognitive tasks (Broglio et al., 2014).
    • Physical therapists are part of the team of professionals that can help before and after concussion! We can provide baseline concussion testing to gather information about concentration, memory, eye movements, neck motion and balance. We can also provide skilled physical therapy services after injury to perform additional specialized testing (including re-testing of the above measures) and develop a plan to get you back to doing what you love! PTS is now offering Pre-Concussion Baseline Screenings for children 5 years and older as well as for adults of any age, for just $25. Contact PTS at (309) 231-0676 for more information and schedule your appointment.



Broglio, S. P., Cantu, R. C., Gioia, G. A., Guskiewicz, K. M., Kutcher, J., Palm, M., & Mcleod, T. C. (2014). National Athletic Trainers Association Position Statement: Management of Sport Concussion. Journal of Athletic Training, 49(2), 245-265. doi:10.4085/1062-6050-49.1.07

HEADS UP to Brain Injury Awareness | HEADS UP | CDC Injury Center. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Honda, J., Chang, S. H., & Kim, K. (2018). The effects of vision training, neck musculature strength, and reaction time on concussions in an athletic population. Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation, 14(5), 706-712. doi:10.12965/jer.1836416.208

About the Author: Janel Carter is a Board Certified Sports Clinical Specialist Physical Therapist and Certified Athletic Trainer with additional certifications in movement assessment through Functional Movement Systems (FMS) and Titleist Performance Institute (TPI). Check out her bio for more details.