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Keeping Athletes Safe-The Role of an Athletic Trainer
March 3, 2015

Athletic participation in the United States is on the rise. With over 21 million children and adolescents participating in youth sports, parents concerns are rising. According to the Aspen Institute Project Play Survey of Parents on youth sports issues in September 2014, there are a number of concerns when addressing athletic play. The two biggest concerns by parents are risk of injury (87.9%) and cost of play (70.3%). These two areas of concern for sports participation are directly related to the role of a Certified Athletic Trainer.

To understand the role of a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC); you need to know what an ATC’s qualifications are and what they can provide. All ATCs are members of the National Athletic Trainers Association and are certified by the Board of Certification. Once certified, an athletic trainer is licensed to practice in their state as an allied health care professional under the direction of a physician. The areas of competency and practice as an ATC are injury prevention, emergency care, clinical diagnosis, therapeutic instruction and rehabilitation of injuries and medical conditions. (NATA)

Now that you understand what an ATC is; it’s clearly defined that the role of Certified Athletic Trainer is to facilitate athletic healthcare for athletes, parents and sports organization. This intervention can address the first parental concern of risk of injury. When an athlete decides to participate in athletics, there needs to be an understanding by the parents that there is an Assumption of Risks for injury. That risk factor can be reduced by involving parents, athletes, coaches and sports organizations in sports safety programming. The Certified Athletic Trainer lead programs can educate individuals in the area of prevention such as emergency action plans, proper age-based strength and conditioning, hygiene, first-aid and CPR, recognition and care of sports injuries and general communications. Being educated by a trained medical professional in athletics with current and valid information is a valuable tool to create the safest environment possible for the athletes’ best sports experience.

Expect the unexpected! Sport injuries do occur and knowing what to do is the first step. Being involved in a sports safety program can help educate individuals on what to do. Unfortunately, there are many injuries that that require further medical attention. This is where the second concern of cost of play is an issue. Parents invest thousands of dollars each year for their child to play sports. With equipment purchases, travel expenses, training programs and other fees, it can become expensive. Do not forget medical expenses for a sports-related injury. In the United States, approximately $935 million each year is spent on sports-related injuries in emergency rooms (NATA YSSA). Prevention and education can help reduce these medical costs that burden families. There are many sports-related injuries that can be prevented. This is why a comprehensive sports physical is important. Evaluation of history of injuries, concussion baseline testing and a thorough examination are important.

Knowing and working with a Certified Athletic Trainer is a valuable relationship in the athletic world. An ATC can educate on prevention and provide care which leads to helping families save money.

-Greg Eberle, Hopedale Medical Complex Certified Athletic Trainer