Jul 13, 2015
Driven to Improve

In recent years, tremendous strides have been made in the area of emergency sports medicine care and athletic training coverage. But there is always room to improve, which was highlighted by the NATA’s press conference “Athlete Safety First: From Youth to Professional Play,” on Wednesday morning. This two-part conference went over the highlights of the NATA’s new “Inter-Association Consensus Statement on Management of Spine Injuries” and announced the expansion of the NFL Foundation Athletic Training Grant Initiative.

There are 14 recommendations with the spine injury consensus statement, but panelist MaryBeth Horodyski, EdD, ATC, FNATA, Vice President of NATA and one of the statement’s authors, said the biggest change from the old recommendation pertains to the removal of athletic equipment. Previously, athletic trainers often left equipment (such as shoulder pads and helmets in football) on the athlete during transport to a trauma center and emergency rooms, leaving it to be removed by physicians and nurses. Now, sports medicine staffs are instructed to take the equipment off on the field. The reasons for this are multiple:

1. Sports medicine personnel are already familiar with the equipment, whereas doctors and nurses in ERs usually are not.

2. This will provide the on-site athletic trainer with access to the athlete’s airway and chest, both of which are important when treating a spine injury.

3. It facilitates testing once the athlete arrives at a trauma center–physicians can get them right in for imaging without having to remove all the equipment.

A big component of this new recommendation will be education. The statement says at least three trained rescuers should partake in the removal of athletic equipment. Athletic trainers will have to become familiar with the equipment of all sports, from football shoulder pads to hockey helmets, and have to understand the specific equipment needs of each position.

As panelist Jim Ellis, MD, emergency physician for the Atlanta Falcons, said, implementing these changes will take time. And as panelist Ron Courson, ATC, PT, NREMT-I, CSCS, Director of Sports Medicine at the University of Georgia, reiterated, the key is to practice, practice, practice.

With a quick change of the panelists, the second part of the conference delved into the expansion of the NFL Foundation’s Athletic Training Grant Initiative. Founded last year to provide athletic trainers to underserved high schools in NFL markets, grants will now also be available to schools outside of NFL markets. As part of a collaboration between the NFL, Professional Football Athletic Trainers’ Society (PFATS), Gatorade, and NATA, $2 million will be available. The expanded program will open later this summer.

Each award-winning school will be able to cater the monies to their community’s specific needs. For instance, panelist Reggie Scott, MS, ATC, PES, Head Athletic Trainer for the St. Louis Rams, said the program in the greater St. Louis community will focus on covering all home varsity football games for the St. Louis Public School District this fall. In addition to having an athletic trainer on the sideline, follow-up care will be available during the week and all varsity football coaches will be certified in Heads Up Football.

During the Q&A portion of the press conference, the panelists were asked about the care not covered by these grants: It’s great to have athletic trainers at games, but what about practices? Both Scott and Rick Burkholder, ATC, LAT, Head Athletic Trainer for the Kansas City Chiefs and President of PFATS, emphasized that these grants are aimed at progress.

“This program is to stimulate,” Scott said. “Take a step forward and stimulate to ‘We need full-time care.'”

Burkholder agreed. “In the following years, can you imagine the schools that only have athletic trainers for games stopping the program? They can’t,” he said. “We’re trying to prime the pump here.”



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