Oct 11, 2019
AT care in the NCAA

A new survey of college and university athletic trainers showed that just 51.7% of programs follow the NCAA-legislated independent medical model of care. The survey was conducted by National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), and the results were unveiled in June at its 70th Clinical Symposia in Las Vegas.

The NCAA legislation for student-athletes is a model that ensures independent medical care by giving ATs the autonomous authority to make decisions related to the health and safety of athletes without the influences of the athletic department, including coaches and other personnel.

The survey also showed that 36.3% of ATs reported a coach influences the hiring or firing of sports medicine staff. Nearly 30% responded to a question subset directly related to receiving pressure from non-medical personnel on medical decisions. Of this subset, which represents 17.4% of the total survey response, 57.8% reported receiving pressure from an administrator, coach or member of the coaching staff to make a decision that was not in the best interest of a student athlete’s health.

Of the 57.8% who reported receiving pressure, approximately the same percentage (58.7%) reported receiving pressure at least once a month. Almost one in 10 reported receiving pressure at least once a week; 28.9% reported receiving pressure at least twice a month; and 2.6% reported receiving pressure daily.

“It is absolutely appropriate and expected for coaches as well as other relevant athletic personnel to ask questions. What is not acceptable is when the inquiry is laced with an expectation to influence, dictate, coerce or challenge the athletic trainer’s autonomous authority to make medical decisions in the sole interest of student athlete health and wellbeing,” said NATA President Tory Lindley, MA, ATC.

Other notable findings in the study:

  • 30% reported that medical autonomy is affected by sport assignment, meaning some sports may allow more independent medical decision-making than others.
  • 18.7% reported a coach playing an athlete who had been deemed medically ineligible for participation.
  • 49.4% reported having no formal document that describes the model adopted by the school.

The survey was distributed through email to 9,223 ATs who identify as working in the collegiate setting. A total of 1,796 responded, of which 1,419 completed all questions.

The survey also showed that 36.3% of ATs reported a coach influences the hiring or firing of sports medicine staff.

Helmet lab testing results

The NFL and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) this spring released their annual Helmet Laboratory Testing Performance Results. For the third consecutive year, the VICIS Zero1 helmet earned the No. 1 ranking.

The NFL and NFLPA annual testing assesses the performance of all helmets in use in the NFL to determine their ability to best reduce the severity of head impacts, empowering athletes to make more informed decisions about their protective equipment. The Zero1 outperformed 33 other helmets tested for its ability to reduce head impact severity in laboratory testing.

The number one ranking comes on the heels of VICIS’ Zero1 Youth topping all helmets in Virginia Tech’s inaugural youth football helmet ratings.

“The Zero1 was a technological breakthrough when first introduced and it remains No. 1 in NFL/NFLPA rankings three years later,” said Dave Marver, CEO and co-founder of VICIS. “With the Zero1 Youth’s top rating in inaugural Virginia Tech Youth Helmet Ratings, VICIS is now the top choice for athletes at all levels of football.”

The Zero1 is the most technologically advanced helmet on the market, designed to reduce impact forces with a highly engineered structure that differs from traditional football helmets. The Zero1 has a deformable outer shell and a unique RFLX layer designed to slow impact forces like a car bumper while enhancing player performance.

Originally introduced to NFL and NCAA teams in 2017, the Zero1 has been adopted by more than 1,200 high school programs and 150 professional and college teams across the country.

After the VICIS Zero1, Schutt and Riddell helmets occupied the next seven spots in the rankings. The Schutt F7 LTD was ranked second, followed by Riddell SpeedFlex Precision Diamond (third); Riddell SpeedFlex Precision (fourth); and Schutt Air XP Pro VTD II (fifth).

Return to safe training

The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association (CSCCa) in June issued a consensus guidelines paper designed to protect athletes returning to training during what are known as “transition periods” following inactivity.

In the past few years, the incidence of injuries and deaths related to exertional heat illness, exertional rhabdomyolysis and cardiorespiratory failure has increased significantly. The organizations hope the new paper will provide professionals with the guidance to help reduce these incidences in college athletes.

The “CSCCa and NSCA Joint Consensus Guidelines for Transition Periods: Safe Return to Training Following Inactivity” was published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal June 2019 issue. It represents the first collaboration between the CSCCa and NSCA since both organizations were formed.

This partnership was prompted by the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports’ request for both organizations to provide guidelines designed to prevent the tragic deaths and catastrophic injuries in student-athletes. Statistics show those injuries most often occur during the first two to four weeks of mandatory training following a break. The term “transition period” is commonly used to describe the two to four weeks of mandatory workouts when an athlete, who has either been on a break of two weeks or longer or is new to a team, is retraining following a period of inactivity.

The protocols of the paper were developed by experienced strength and conditioning coaches and were researched, supported and validated by scientists from both organizations. It includes:

  • Recommendations for the prevention of common exertional injuries.
  • The importance of each university’s athletic department to develop and practice emergency action plans for each training venue, conducting pre-participation medical evaluations, and making the results for at-risk athletes available to the strength and conditioning coaching staff.
  • The recommendation that strength and conditioning coaches adjust workouts to match environmental conditions.
  • The recommendation that strength and conditioning coaches be properly certified.

The most unique part of the paper is the recommended limits on training volumes, training intensities, and work-to-rest ratios that allow strength and conditioning coaches the autonomy to design programs that fit their training approach, yet provide safe upper limits that protect athletes.

Statistics show those injuries most often occur during the first two to four weeks of mandatory training following a break.

Florida school petitions for ATs

A petition in a central Florida community is asking that all of the county’s public high schools employ a full-time athletic trainer.

The petition was created online after 14-year-old Middleton High School freshman Hezekiah Walters collapsed during summer football conditioning drills and died. Lloyd Knudson, an athletic trainer at Winter Haven High School in Florida, started the petition in Walters’ honor, calling on the Polk County School Board and superintendent to make significant changes.

According to reports, Walters began to vomit and seizure before losing consciousness roughly 30 minutes into the team’s program. He was transported to the hospital and died a few hours later. A cause of death has not yet been determined.

Coaches typically take some courses to educate themselves on helping athletes in the event of an emergency, but “the key word is help,” Knudson wrote in support of his petition. Schools must still employ a certified athletic trainer who knows how to respond when an athlete needs immediate care.

“We may never know if Hezekiah’s death could have been avoided if an athletic trainer was present,” Knudson wrote. “But we do know that his chances of living would have been much greater, if there was. And I’m sure Hezekiah’s family, friends and loved ones would have had some sort of closure, knowing that every possible measure was taken to help him live. But right now, that is not the case.”

In a statement to ABC News in Tampa Bay, Polk County Public Schools said it will purchase cold water immersion tubs that will be required for all outdoor high school athletics beginning with the upcoming school year.

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