On the Same Side

February 3, 2017


By Maria Hutsick

Maria Hutsick, MS, LAT, ATC, CSCS, is Head Athletic Trainer at Medfield (Mass.) High School and former Director of Sports Medicine at Boston University. She is a past president of the College Athletic Trainers' Society and was honored with an NATA Athletic Trainer Service Award in 2010. She can be reached at: mhutsick@email.medfield.net.


When I first came to Medfield (Mass.) High School about 10 years ago, I was faced with the challenge of covering my school’s freshman and j.v. football games alone. Now, all athletic trainers in the area travel with their varsity football teams, but due to the lower levels playing in the middle of the week and conflicts with other teams, our league dictates that the home team’s athletic trainer cover both squads during freshman and j.v. contests.

This was a problem for me. Because football teams stand on opposite sidelines during games, I’d have to run back and forth across the field if I needed to treat an injury on the visiting team. I simply refused to do this.

To solve this problem, I met with my athletic director. I told him that we needed to make a league rule requiring both teams to stand on the same sideline during freshman and j.v. football games. After all, other sports like soccer, field hockey, and lacrosse already do this. He agreed, and we got the rule passed.

There are a lot of potential benefits to this rule change. For one, it allows the athletic trainer to have access to both teams and the teams to the athletic trainer. This means the athletic trainer can discuss any injuries with the coaches and update them on the status of an athlete. It also allows the athletic trainer to more easily communicate with parents in the stands because the teams stand on the same side as the parents sit. This makes the game safer and the athletic trainer more effective.

In addition, it is a learning situation for the athletes. Since they are all still pretty young, some are hesitant to tell the coach when they are injured. They are afraid of their coach’s response to injury because in football they are often told to “suck up” a lot of minor pain to play. When I’m on the sidelines with them, I can spot anyone trying to hide an injury and make sure they get the care they need.

At first, the football coaches were resistant to the rule change. However, once the other athletic trainers in the league got on board, they had no choice. This has become the rule in our league, and all freshman and j.v. football teams that come to our schools have to go off the field to the same sideline as the home team.

Since implementing this new rule, only one team refused to follow it. Their reasoning was that they had an EMT with them. This caused a problem because the football coach didn’t do anything to intervene. However, I discussed the issue with that school’s athletic director, and it did not happen again.

Overall, the new rule change has been great. Medfield and other schools in the league have done well with this rule, and it has improved the care we provide to our student-athletes.

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