Certified Athletic Trainer Chad Rankin, MS, ATC, is making a significant difference in the health and safety of Clatsop County's student athletes.

Area coaches showed their appreciation by nominating Rankin for the 2012 Virtue First "Health Care Professional of the Year" Award. Rankin was one of five nominees for the award, and the only individual to be nominated. He was presented with the award at a ceremony in Mt. Angel on May 9.

According to Vince Teresi, spokesperson for the Virtue First Foundation, the coaches who nominated Rankin for this honor told the Foundation, "Chad cares about kids so much that the is willing to make personal sacrifices for them," and "Chad is the best athletic trainer any program could hope for."

Columbia Memorial Hospital (CMH) hired Rankin in August 2011. CMH donates Rankin's time and services to Clatsop County schools at no cost to the districts.

"Chad continues to go above and beyond for the student athletes and coaches and has established a great working relationship with all four of our region's high schools.  He is an excellent ambassador for Columbia Memorial Hospital and looks out for the safety of each student athlete he evaluates," said Jarrod Karnofski, CMH's director of ancillary services.

Rankin visits Astoria, Warrenton, Seaside and Knappa high schools weekly to do injury evaluations and care recommendations. He also teaches coaches and students about injury prevention. He also provides some basic injury treatment at tournaments and many home games.

During the fall and winter sports seasons, he performed 371 injury evaluations for student athletes. The program has been extremely beneficial for students who suffer concussions during practice or competition.

"Chad has been instrumental in implementing the ImPACT test," said Jarrod Karnofski, CMH's director of ancillary services.

At the beginning of each season, Rankin gives varsity athletes the computer-based ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) test, which quantifies brain function through reaction times, memory and awareness. During the 2012-13 school year, Rankin did 530 baseline ImPACT tests on student athletes.

Forty-one students later showed signs of having suffered a concussion, so Rankin did post-injury tests for these athletes. By comparing the pre- and post-injury tests, the student athlete's primary care doctor can evaluate how well the athlete is recovering.

Having this vital measure of brain function can guide doctors in determining when an athletes is ready to go back to practice and competition, preventing further or lasting brain injury.

"What I always tell kids is that we have to do our due diligence when returning to athletics participation and take the proper steps with any injury, but especially with concussion, as we want to make sure they have completely recovered from the injury," Rankin said. "Taking a second hit to the head before recovering completely could result in another concussion and the consequences can be devastating."

The Oregon State legislature is currently considering expanding Max's Law, which outlines treatment of brain injuries in school sports. The law was named for a southern Oregon high school football player, Max Conradt, who suffered two concussions in two weeks and was in a coma for four months. Now Conradt suffers from Second Impact Syndrome and lives in a long-term care facility.

Ensuring that student athletes have fully recovered from injuries before returning to athletics is a top priority for Rankin and CMH.

Prior to the start of the 2013-14 school year, Rankin will lead a course for coaches and parents titled "Concussion Management, Taping, Bracing & Rehabilitation of the Student Athlete." The course is scheduled for Aug. 6, 7-9 p.m., in the CMH Columbia Center.

It costs $10 and fulfills Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) requirements for coaches. To register for the class or for more information, call 503-338-7564 or visit www.columbiamemorial.org.

Northwest Lending Group