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Athletic trainers: why every high school should have one

Posted by Bethany Nock on Wed, September 12, 2018

Athletic trainers (ATs) play a vital role at high school athletic events – that’s if the school is fortunate enough to have one. The services athletic trainers provide go well beyond the playing field, yet the majority of public and private high schools do not have a full-time AT on staff.

A recent study found that only 37 percent of public schools have full-time athletic training services, and there are even fewer at private schools at only 28 percent. Access to an athletic trainer is most prevalent in the north and eastern part of the United States. Researchers agree the numbers fall short and know that the more athletic trainers in our high schools, the safer sports practices and games become.

So, here are a few of the reasons every high school should consider staffing an athletic trainer.

Athletic Trainers Provide Medical Services

One of the main duties of an athletic trainer is to provide immediate care to an injured player. They are the first to respond to an athlete and are equipped with the knowledge and training to provide care in the situation at hand – even those potentially life threatening to the athlete. An AT may also work with physicians to provide a range of healthcare services to student athletes. In many schools, the athletic trainer will collaborate with the school nurse to look after the entire student body.

Athletic trainers can also help in the medical referral process, including:

  • Parental preferences
  • Health insurance limitations
  • Medical specialization

This is helpful to parents because an athletic trainer can facilitate open communication between the student, parents, physicians and coaches.

The daily presence of the athletic trainer also provides an opportunity for on-site injury rehabilitation and reconditioning. This is a big part of the successful and safe return to play for a student athlete after an injury. Having care available at school is also helpful to parents. It saves them time taking off work traveling to and from appointments, but also provides a peace of mind knowing their child is in good hands.  

Athletic Trainers Reduce Injuries and Minimize Risk

The American Medical Association and the National Athletic Trainers' Association endorse the hiring of full-time and on-site athletic trainers. In fact, research suggests schools following the recommendation have lower injury rates than those without an athletic trainer. Athletic trainers can impact the health and safety of student athletes in other ways. Their education program trains them to notice potential risks that other school personnel may not recognize.

An athletic trainer also helps facilitate injury prevention strategies. Athletic trainers team up with coaches on programs that help enhance student athlete performance and competition outcomes. They can also provide sport specific exercises for the athletes to decrease the risk of injury even further.

Administrative Duties

An athletic trainer can aid in the management of medical records, including:

  • Pre-participation exams
  • Concussion management programs
  • HIPPA/FERPA compliance
  • Substance abuse education programs
  • Health and liability insurance

This component of an athletic trainer’s responsibilities provides a positive effect on the school’s administrative staff.

Athletic trainers prevent, diagnose, treat and rehabilitate injuries and illnesses for thousands of high school athletes each year. They’re responsible for treating injuries ranging from minor to life-threatening, but their importance does not diminish at the end of every practice or game.

If your school has an athletic trainer, make sure they have the equipment they need to bring their best self to the job and to give them credit where credit is due. After all, they are the ones responsible for getting those athletes back in the game!

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