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Sports trainers use new concussion test

By Austin Jackson | Published Saturday, September 1, 2018
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Ahead of the Curve

AHEAD OF THE CURVE – Fit-N-Wise and Decatur high school athletic trainer Fernando Escobar holds up the SWAY test app on his phone. The web-based app will be used to help test and monitor concussion symptoms this season. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Good news, football is back.

Bad news, so are some of the injuries that will come with the game.

While athletes and coaches who have been working night and day to perfect their craft entering the football season, so have area athletic trainers and physical therapists. This year, Decatur trainer Fernando Escobar said they will be bringing some new wrinkles to their repertoire on Friday nights.

For the first time, Wise County trainers and physical therapists have the option of using the SWAY test to check for concussions.

SWAY is a web-based app that can be downloaded to trainers’ and athletes’ phones. It measures balance, coordination and memory.

“Our trainers have usually had two options for concussion testing,” Escobar said. “This is a new tool we can use in the clinic and on the sideline working through player testing.”

According to the Sway Website, the technology is FDA approved and cleared as a medical device for professional use.

“Concussion and Return-To-Play (RTP) protocols have traditionally relied on computerized cognitive tests blended with subjective balance testing. Sway’s proprietary technology converts the BESS protocol to an objective, unbiased measurement… Sway Balance creates reports to analyze, compare, document and track the athlete’s balance, motion reaction time and concussion symptoms.”

To use the app, Escobar said athletes will hold the phone to their chest and have them stand on one leg at a time.

“It takes about two minutes and we get a lot of data from those two minutes,” he said.

Brett Braziel, Fit-N-Wise sports medicine director, said the app will be beneficial for athletes in helping them get back on the field in a safe amount of time.

The app is best utilized in gaining baseline data [pre-concussion] for athletes to better gauge concussion symptoms when they’re suspected, Braziel said.

Then, with both sets of data, trainers can give a more informed diagnosis in gauging whether those symptoms still exist.

“It’s a good test and it’s super convenient,” Braziel said. “We can screen several athletes at once and after a few minutes, we get data on all of them.”

While concussions are always a major concern, Escobar said one of the main keys to staying healthy this season is hydration and nutrition.

He said at the beginning of the season, the risk for injury is higher due to players not being used to the physical demands of the game.

One way to combat this, he said, is drinking plenty of water and electrolytes leading up to and after game day.

He said as athletes get back to school, their hydration schedule is often thrown out of whack as they acclimate to their class schedule.

“Diet and hydration is what we stress the most,” Escobar said. “We stress it to the players and the parents. Just carry around a water bottle. Drink water. That’s the main thing. You can get electrolytes too, but water is key.”

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