By Eric Goodman, ATC, Dover High School
Admittedly, I am biased. I have been an Athletic Trainer for more than half of my life and I know my work makes a difference in my athletes’ lives, but I frequently hear that not everyone knows what an Athletic trainer is or what we do. When this situation arises, I often explain by using this example: While you are watching professional sports and an athlete is injured on the field, the athletic trainer is the person running onto the field to tend to them.
What is an Athletic Trainer?
Athletic trainers (ATs) are highly qualified, multi-skilled health care professionals who render service or treatment, under the direction of, or in collaboration with, a physician, in accordance with their education, training and the state's statutes, rules and regulations. To become an athletic trainer, candidates now often graduate with a Master’s degree in Athletic Training from an accredited athletic training program and successfully pass the Board of Certification (BOC) Exam. To practice as an athletic trainer in most states, the individual must also be credentialed within the state.
As a part of the school health care team, services provided by athletic trainers include primary care, injury and illness prevention, wellness promotion and education, emergent care, examination and clinical diagnosis, therapeutic intervention and rehabilitation of injuries and medical conditions.
How does this relate to an athlete’s care?
In our primary role, we provide onsite medical coverage for practices and games. This allows Athletic trainers to provide immediate care for all types of injuries. In a recent survey, only 37% of all high schools had a full-time trainer available, which is considered the gold standard for care. Study Link The survey concluded that best practice calls for a trainer to be there for both practices and games and is bolstered by the following statistic provided by the National Athletic Trainers Association, stating that 62% of all injuries occurred during practice. This care potentially includes critical emergency care where speed of delivery and stabilizing the athlete for transport is essential before EMS arrives. Some examples include:
Did you know… 8,000 kids are treated daily in emergency rooms for sports related injuries.
In addition to emergency care, Athletic trainers evaluate non-life-threatening injuries. A comprehensive evaluation can reveal the problem that is plaguing an athlete before it becomes a bigger problem. This can eliminate unnecessary pain and discomfort and diminish the amount of time spent away from their sport. Read more: Youth Sports Safety Alliance
Below are just a few of the common injuries that can be prevented or aided by an Athletic Trainer:
Fun Fact: A typical NH High School Athletic Trainer Services 34 sports with a total of 60 teams annually.
This equates to over 600 managed injuries in the past 4 years and nearly 1700 treatments.
What makes an effective Trainer?
As an Athletic Trainer, providing clear and effective communication regarding the injury to the athlete is the first step. Helping them understand what has happened, how it occurred, and what the next steps are in the injury management process can really ease their return to play anxiety. This communication has to continue with the parents; tempering expectations with sound facts, helping facilitate what type of providers they should see (Orthopedic surgeon, PT, MD, etc.), providing their findings to the provider that the athlete is seeing, and possibly acting as an extension of their care.
Lastly, helping the coach understand the Return to play process, limitations, modifications, and when they are fully cleared to participate. All of this can greatly improve an athlete's experience with their return to sport.
As an Athletic Trainer, beyond our skills, our relationships with our athletes can be extremely beneficial. Within the High School, I provide a trusted person who has the athletes’ best interest in mind. I find that athletes are more likely to open up about something that is plaguing them, as a visible trusted adult who they’re sometimes more likely to approach than their parents and coaches. When an athlete comes to see me, they know I am going to do my best to help them continue to play, but I will also be a listening ear. They know we are part of their team. We celebrate their successes and share in their disappointments. Athletic trainers are committed health care professionals who take pride in helping watch over the schools’ athletes.
Wentworth Douglass Hospital is proud to provide athletic trainers to five local high schools: Oyster River, Dover, Somersworth, Portsmouth and Spaulding.
Eric Goodman is a Certified Athletic Trainer through the National Athletic Trainers Association Board of Certification. He graduated from Keene State College with BS in Physical Education and Sports Medicine. Throughout his career, he has worked with athletes ranging from professional soccer down to middle school athletes. Eric has been the Head Athletic Trainer at Dover High School for 21 years. In addition to being the Athletic Trainer for Dover High, he teaches athletic training and health education. One of Eric’s passions is running strength and conditioning programs for his high school athletes, helping them become stronger while eliminating injuries to keep them competing with their team.
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