Aug 10, 2017
Virtual Athletic Trainer

It’s no secret that athletic trainers are important to the health and safety of athletes at every level. Unfortunately, many high schools across the country are lacking when it comes to proper staffing of this position. According to The Monett Times, Cox Health Systems based in Springfield, Mo., is helping to combat this by creating a program that brings athletic training advice to area athletes through technology.

“I like to call it a virtual athletic trainer,” said Greg Gilmore, ATC, Cox Monett Hospital’s Athletic Training Coordinator. “Think of it along the same lines of direct connect with hospitals, only instead of conferencing with a physician, athletes would conference with an athletic trainer.”

When a participating school has a student-athlete who is in need of an athletic trainer, they simply contact Cox Health. The athlete will then engage in a completely confidential videoconference with a certified athletic trainer from Cox’s athletic training division.

“Parents can also join in the call. If they have a smartphone, they can watch the entire interview,” Gilmore said. “Students will be joined by a school representative, and even though the [athletic] trainer is not physically in the room, the representative can help perform simple tests.

“If an athlete has a serious medical injury or issue, the district or parent can feel free to call me, but I’m going to quickly instruct them to hang up and dial 911,” he continues. “This resource give[s] the school, parents, and athletes an additional layer of expertise and advice to help in the diagnostic process.”

Making this access budget friendly was an important aspect of the design process, so even schools that are struggling financially can keep their athletes safe and healthy. The basic service plan costs about as much as a monthly cell phone bill and can be customized to meet each district’s needs. Beyond money, this program also allows parents and districts to save time when it comes to diagnosing and treating athletes.

“With this program, we can save parents the hassle and stress of taking off a half-day of work to go have their child looked at,” Gilmore said. “Obviously, if it warrants a doctor’s visit the[n] that is what will be recommended, but it could be as simple as a sore muscle that needs to be rested for a night.”

The program was piloted last year at two local high schools, and Gilmore believes that it was a great success. A third high school has already signed on for the coming year, adding to the list of student-athletes who will have greater access to the wealth of knowledge and care of an athletic trainer.

“Taping ankles and sitting on the bench at games is only a tiny part of what an athletic trainer does,” Gilmore said. “We are very busy behind the scenes trying to ensure that athletes can get bigger, stronger [and] faster in a safe manner.”

* Photo by NEC Corporation of America with Creative Commons license.

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