Any team that has ever had the opportunity to work with an athletic trainer for a season, not a physiotherapist, not a person who has some first aid training, but a certified athletic trainer, would have to admit to the obvious difference in proficiency and efficiency in the way an athletic trainer attends to and deals with his/her athletes.Athletic trainers are groomed to deal with the specific challenges that accompany working with a team.Everything from assessing an injury on the field/court in full view of the viewing audience, to rehabilitating them to full return to play; from gathering their medical background to having all insurance information on hand in the event of an emergency situation; from identifying the psychological challenges of being injured to communicating with coaches about their management in the best interest of the athlete.Athletic trainers receive the most extensive training to meet the specific demands of athletes.Pre-game preparation usually entails some sort of strapping or taping to help injured athletes to stay in the game while coping with an injury.
Athletic trainers must be proficient in taping techniques to be able to support the joint or muscle properly; to understand what type of tape is most suitable to do the job; to apply the angle of tension to avoid unnatural torque that would cause further damage to the body rather than prevent it, etc.When an athlete goes down on the field, the assessment process starts immediately, recapping what happened just before the athlete went down and then observing the reaction of the athlete to the mechanism of injury-all this while running to the aid of the athlete.Each sport has its own rules with reference to when the first responder is allowed to come onto the playing field/court to attend to the athlete but once there, resuming play as quickly as possible is the priority.Thus, assessing the athlete to determine whether participation can continue or not, or whether the athlete requires medical assistance to be safely removed or not are high priority.Serious injuries like ligament ruptures, spinal injuries and concussions must be managed carefully to avoid further injury to the athlete.
Splinting and spine boarding to immobilize the injured area prior to transporting to the hospital are skills athletic trainers execute adeptly in order to provide the best care to the athlete.Immediately recognizing and assessing an athlete for a concussion and managing him/her thereafter can extend for weeks stressing the importance of understanding such injuries. Sports like rugby that are very high contact in nature, should always insist on having medical personnel present or readily accessible to execute these skills proficiently.The National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) in the USA mandates that athletic trainers renew their Basic Life Support (BLS) certification annually as well as ensure that immunizations such as the hepatitis B virus (HPV) are kept current due to the first responder role inherited with the profession.Team medical coverage is something that administrators continue to see as optional in Trinidad and Tobago. Athletes are expected to push their bodies to the limit with little to no provisions in place to address their medical needs in the event of an injury.
Such practice is allowed to prosper because (1) athletes do not unite to insist on better for themselves from their club/association and (2) the love of athletes for the game overrides all the substandard conditions within which they are expected to train and compete.So, in the meantime, I have seen athletes sustain concussions and return to play prior to proper medical release. I have also seen athletes train on misdiagnosed ACL ruptures only to eventually realize the seriousness of their injury and that it might warrant surgery.In both instances, athletes are not inclined to the most favorable outcome. Rather the risk for further injury is heightened and their athletic career possibly shortened.Athletes notice when their club/organization takes an interest in their well-being and it really adds to team morale.
That sense of support and appreciation bridges communication between the two entities (athlete and administration) and can only extend towards positive outcomes.However, putting the systems in place to facilitate athletes in this way requires pre-planning.During the off-season, the sports medicine team should be identified and protocols created and ready for execution when pre-season starts.Rather than assume that hiring the proper professionals will be too costly, make it a priority and find creative ways to access the funds to afford it while negotiating rates or conditions with the service provider.If even complete coverage cannot be provided, identify the most important areas of concern and start to provide that.Our athletes have gone with so little in the realm of proper medical care that even a small step in the right direction will have a positive impact.