With youth sports concussion safety laws in place in all 50 states, increased public awareness about concussions, and growing concern about the long-term effect of repetitive head impacts, the demand for concussion education, not just for parents, coaches, and athletes, but for health care professionals, such as primary care and emergency room physicians, as well, is at an all-time high, and promises to go even higher in the coming years.
But who should sports programs - whether school-based or independently run - hire to educate athletes, coaches, and parents about concussions? What kind of training, education and experience should they have?
We decided to ask a number of leading concussion educators. Today, in the second in our series, we hear from sports concussion neuropsychologist, Rosemarie Scolaro Moser, Ph.D., a longtime MomsTEAM.com expert and director of the Sports Concussion Center of New Jersey:
MomsTEAM: Tell us a little bit about your training and education that prepared you to be a qualified concussion educator?
Moser: I am a neuropsychologist: a doctoral-level brain-behavior-licensed health care professional, with four years of college, five years of graduate school, an internship year, and post-doctoral training. I am also board certified in neuropsychology. As a neuropsychologist, I treat a variety of brain conditions including traumatic brain injury and concussion. I began treating individuals with brain injury in the 1980s and began research specifically in the area of sports concussion in the 1990s. My research was the first to demonstrate the enduring effects of concussion in youth. I am also the author of "Ahead of the Game: The Parents' Guide to Youth Sports Concussion."
MomsTEAM: Who should be leading concussion education sessions for youth sports teams and schools?
Moser: A licensed health care professional, with specific course work in sports concussion (not just one online webinar), including at least one year of hands-on clinical experience working directly in a health care setting with youth athletes who have sustained sports concussions.
MomsTEAM: You have a great resume and are well-educated but what about communities without a Dr. Moser?
Moser: There are three places to look to find a qualified concussion educator:
First, every state in the country has a brain injury association which may already have a sports concussion committee and/or education program in place with outreach services. Contact them, as they can help your community start a concussion program and have many materials and resources.
Second, access the referral list/membership directory of the Sports Neuropsychology Society, which lists sports neuropsychologists by state. One may be near you.
Third, contact your local school district. Currently, every state has a concussion law in place for schools (all at the high school level, some including middle school, and even elementary school sports). As a result, there is mandatory training for school personnel as well as identified health care professionals who are working with the schools. The contact persons who are implementing the law may include athletic trainers, school physicians, school nurses, and school psychologists.
MomsTEAM: With all sorts of people popping up as "concussion educators" what do parents and leagues need to be cautious about?
Sports programs should be cautious about concussion educators who:
- are not affiliated with a concussion center, sports practice, brain injury association, or similar group.
- say that there is no concussion just because the CT scan is normal or there is no evidence of loss of consciousness.
- still use grading systems to determine concussion severity or readiness for return to play.
- provide baseline neurocognitive testing, but who have not been formally trained in administering the test, who allow testing at home, who test kids casually without rigorous testing conditions and supervision, or who do not check for the validity of the test results. [For an article by Dr. Moser discussing the challenges of getting an acurate baseline, click here.]
- work in isolation rather than coordinating care with other concussion team members (physician, neuropsychologist, athletic trainer, school nurse).
- have never worked directly with patients, espcially pediatric athletes, who have sustained traumatic brain injury or concussion.
- who cannot easily describe the meaning of: the Zurich Guidelines, Return to Learn, and Return to Play; or
- only recently became involved in concussion education.
MomsTEAM: What are the questions parents need to ask of a person and what qualifications do they need? Are there courses, etc?
Moser: I talk about this in my book. Here are some questions to ask:
- Where and how did you receive your training in sports concussion?
- How long have you been in sports concussion practice?
- Do you work alone or are there other health care professionals on your concussion team?
- What are the Zurich Guidelines?
- What is your return to learn/return to play protocol?
- What grading system do you use for concussions? (The answer should be that we do not grade concussions any longer, and that one does not know the severity of concussion until long after the concussion.)
MomsTEAM: Brag time. What have you done in the last five years that you are most proud about to help protect kids?
- Published the book: "Ahead of the Game: The Parents' Guide to Youth Sports Concussion" (Dartmouth College Press).
- Conducted and published original concussion research regarding concussion testing and treatment in youth athletes.
- Advocated alongside legislators to support youth concussion laws.
- Served as an expert for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention working on developing new guidelines for Pediatric Mild Traumatic Brain Injury.
- Conducted large scale baseline testing programs for youth sports teams.
- Appeared in the MomsTEAM PBS documentary, "The Smartest Team: Making High School Football Safer"
- Written extensively for MomsTEAM.com.
- Participated and spoke at multiple conferences and seminars for training of physicians, athletic directors, athletic trainers, teachers, principals, other school personnel, coaches, parents, youth athletes.
- Appeared in numerous TV and radio programs (as well as being quoted in print newspapers and online publications) educating the public about youth sports concussion.
- Exhibited in multiple communities "Bike Rodeos" providing free educational materials to the public.
- Been involved on an ongoing basis in the training of graduate students and post-graduate neuropsychologists in the field of sports concussion.
MomsTeam.com and its non-profit parent, MomsTEAM Institute, are watchdog and advocacy organizations whose missions are to educate youth sports stakeholders on best health and safety, nutrition, hydration, and sports parenting practices. This is the second in a ongoing series of interviews with leading concussion educators:
Rosemarie Scolaro Moser, PhD, ABN, ABPP-RP is the director of the Sports Concussion Center of New Jersey at RSM Psychology Center, LLC and the author of "Ahead of the Game: The Parents' Guide to Youth Sports Concussion" (Dartmouth College Press-UPNE). Dr. Moser's sports concussion research has been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals, including Neurosurgery, the American Journal of Sports Medicine, Journal of Athletic Training, Archives in Clinical Neuropsychology, Applied Neuropsychology, and the Journal of Pediatrics. She received her Ph.D. in Professional Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, is board certified in neuropsychology and rehabilitation psychology, and is a certified school psychologist.
Dr. Moser has served as President of the New Jersey Neuropsychological Society, President of the New Jersey Psychological Association, and Treasurer of the National Academy of Neuropsychology. She is an adjunct professor at the Widener University and a fellow of the American Psychological Association (APA), having received the APA Presidential Award for Advocacy in Psychology.
She serves on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Expert Panel on Pediatric Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. She and her Center have been named 2012 "Top Doc" and 2014 "Best of Fitness" by Suburban Life Magazine, Philadelphia. Dr. Moser has served as the "Official Concussion Doctor" for Philadelphia Soul Arena Football, Trenton Steel Arena Football, and Trenton Titans Pro Ice Hockey Teams. She currently provides concussion programs for youth athletic leagues and athletes at all level of play. She is a long-time sports mom, advocate for sports concussion legislation, practicing neuropsychologist, and MomsTEAM expert, and was a featured expert in MomsTEAM's PBS high school football concussion documentary, "The Smartest Team."
For a full list of articles by and videos featuring Dr. Moser on MomsTEAM, click here.