On the Map

May 4, 2017
By Larry Cooper

Larry Cooper, MS, LAT, ATC, is Head Athletic Trainer at Penn-Trafford High School in Harrison City, Pa., where he also teaches health, physical education, and sports medicine classes. Since 2012, he has served as Chair of the NATA Secondary School Athletic Trainers’ Committee. Winner of a 2016 NATA Most Distinguished Athletic Trainer Award, 2015 T&C Most Valuable Athletic Trainer Award, and 2014 NATA Athletic Training Service Award, he was inducted into the Pennsylvania Athletic Trainers’ Society Hall of Fame in 2014. Cooper can be reached at: cooperl@penntrafford.org.

So has anybody ever heard a story about an idea that was born in a bar or restaurant, with the initial concepts drawn on a napkin? I know I was skeptical of such tales. That was until I was part of this exact situation.

Picture three athletic trainers, one of whom had talked to both individuals, but the other two had never met before. We met at the first annual Collaborative Solutions for Safety in Sport conference in New York City in 2015. I saw this as an opportunity to finally bring a guy with previous experience using a program called Zee Maps together with an athletic trainer who is also a researcher and explain that the three of us needed to collaborate on a project to assist with collecting data on the secondary school setting. The venue where this meeting took place was a restaurant called Dos Caminos in New York City.  

By the end of the evening, we had the name of the project, the data that we wanted to collect, and the questions that would be asked all jotted down on a napkin. We all found something we were passionate about and were brainstorming how we could best merge all our ideas together. We were so busy and lost in thought and dialogue that we totally lost track of time and found that the restaurant staff had cleaned the entire place and got ready for the next day before we ever knew what was going on around us. This is where the Athletic Training Locations and Services (ATLAS) project was born and started to develop its personality. The players were Ronnie Harper, EdD, ATC, co-owner of My Sports Dietitian and Head Athletic Trainer at Dutchtown High School in Geismar, La., Rob Huggins, PhD, ATC, Vice President of Research and Athlete Performance at the Korey Stringer Institute (KSI), and myself.

As of today, 71 percent of all secondary schools in the country have been mapped on the ATLAS project. Currently, NATA Districts 1, 2, and 3 are tied with 91 percent of the schools mapped in their districts.

Since that time, the ATLAS program has evolved into a living, breathing project that is just starting to realize its potential. While its original goal was to collect data on employment status, hiring practices, the number of athletic trainers at a particular secondary school, and the size of school, it has grown to push student safety initiatives, track emergency action plan (EAP) use, track trends in hiring practices, see how athletic trainers work with their team physicians, track who has AEDs, track the number of student-athletes, track what sports are offered, and more. State leaders, legislators, state and national medical associations, parent groups, and school administrators are now asking for data that helps change the landscape of athletic health care at the secondary school level.

If you haven’t taken the time to get your high school accurately mapped or taken the five-minute survey, then you are in the minority. As of today, 71 percent of all secondary schools in the country have been mapped. Currently, NATA Districts 1, 2, and 3 are tied with 91 percent of the schools mapped in their districts.

While we still have a ways to go, the ATLAS project marks the first time we’ve been able to collect information on all of the approximately 22,000 high schools across the country. Before, data collection was not as robust, and we relied on other school personnel for the information. Now, we are dealing directly with athletic trainers. This in itself has helped to increase involvement and accuracy.

While the ATLAS questionnaire consists of 27 questions total, here is a snapshot of the information requested:

• Name

• Credentials

• School name and address

• Public or private or other type of institution?

• Are you full time or part time?

• How are you employed?

• Do you have venue-specific EAPs?

• Do you have Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)?

• Who signs off on your SOPs?

• What is the specialty of your team physician?

• Are you a Safe Sports School Award Winner?

• Are you a Gatorade Award Winner?

• Number of sports your school offers?

• How many athletes?

• Do you teach?

• What do you teach?

So you may be asking yourself: How can this benefit me? Well, do your teams ever travel out of state? Do your teams compete in state tournaments against teams that you are not familiar with? If you answered yes to either of these, the ATLAS project can be a method of communicating with the athletic trainer from a team in another state or a school on the other end of the state.

We will also be able to use the information we gather as a conduit for release of material that is of particular value to our setting. If you have read the news lately, there are many states that have had their athletic trainers’ credentials attacked. ATLAS would have been a great way to mobilize state members to contact their legislators and other stakeholders in a short period of time.

I hope that you can now see how and why Ronnie, Rob, and I got so busy planning the premise of this project that evening in New York City. We saw endless possibilities to benefit the secondary school setting and the athletic training profession. So next time you’re at a restaurant with a group of professional colleagues and the ideas start flying, grab a napkin and start writing. You never know what could happen.

Get on board, and help the NATA and KSI get all of the secondary schools across the country mapped. Your profession depends upon it. Go to http://ksi.uconn.edu/nata-atlas/ and take the survey to get your school mapped.

Special thanks to Ronnie Harper for planting the seed and to Rob Huggins and Sarah Attanasio, ATC, Assistant Director of Research at KSI, for their continued help, support, and dedication to make this project a success.

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