With more than thirty years of experience as an athlete, coach and athletic trainer, Robb Rehberg, an associate professor of kinesiology, has both seen and suffered his share of concussions. “For years, it’s been a part of the game,” he admits. “We really didn’t know how serious concussions were. In some cases, we didn’t know it was an injury at all.”
Today, Rehberg is one of New Jersey’s foremost advocates for concussion and brain injury awareness. As president of the Athletic Trainers’ Society of New Jersey from 2007-09, he played an integral role in advancing the state’s 2010 concussion law, which applies to school districts and nonpublic school interscholastic leagues.
“Fewer than 10 percent of athletes who suffer concussions actually lose consciousness,” Rehberg explains, noting that headaches, dizziness, and difficulty sleeping and concentrating are hallmark symptoms. “The only way to tell the severity of a concussion is in retrospective.”
Athletic trainers play a critical role in concussion care, Rehberg adds, as they are the only medical professionals required to undergo concussion education in order to renew their licenses. New Jersey’s concussion law requires annual concussion training for school physicians, all coaches, and continuing medical education requirements for athletic trainers, and, as of fall 2011, all school districts with an interscholastic sports program are required to have a concussion policy in place.
Rehberg, who served as head athletic trainer at Westwood Regional Junior Senior High School for thirteen years, sees the impact of concussions first-hand in his current role as an athletic trainer at Overlook Hospital in Summit, where he works in the Atlantic Neuroscience Institute's Sports Concussion Center and has worked in the Emergency Department as part of Atlantic Health System's Sports Health Initiative. He is one of the first athletic trainers in the state, and among very few in the country, to work in these settings.
“We often see kids who don’t get better quickly, or who are depressed or have difficulty sleeping because they have not allowed their brains to heal,” he says. “The real treatment is letting your brain rest. Parents, athletes, coaches, and guidance counselors need to understand that having a concussion can have long-term and serious consequences.”
“New research is being released every day about the cumulative impact of concussions,” he adds. “The best way to protect oneself from a concussion is to be educated.”