Jan 29, 2015
Highlights from NATA

T&C Managing Editor Abigail Funk just returned from the NATA 62nd Annual Meeting in New Orleans. The following are some of her observations from the exhibit hall and convention floor.

The Wednesday session titled: Eat It Up: 3 Things All Sports Medicine Professionals Should Know About Nutrition by Dana White, MS, RD, ATC, of Dana White Nutrition, Inc. was standing room only. White had a great perspective on the topic as both an athletic trainer and registered dietitian. The top three areas she is usually asked the most about by athletic trainers are pre- and post-activity nutrition, do’s and dont’s for supplement use, and tips for dietary situations (including eating disorders, disordered eating, food allergies, and food sensitivities).

This was a great session to attend because staying for the question-and-answer portion allowed me to see what our readers want to see more articles about. I got some great story ideas, which you can look forward to reading in next year’s issues.


The first session I attended on Wednesday was a peer-to-peer discussion called Secondary Schools-Development of Concussion Management Protocols for Secondary Schools. It was by far the most well-attended educational session I’ve been to, and for good reason since concussion protocol is such a hot topic.

The moderators were William “Bucky” Taylor, MEd, LAT, ATC, and Dennis Hart, MEd, LAT, ATC. Both are Texas high school athletic trainers who recently retired from providing coverage at the high school level, but are still active in their school districts. Taylor and Hart were also both very big parts of getting concussion legislation passed in Texas that will take effect September 1.

Taylor started the discussion by asking the room how many of them worked at a high school with a return-to-play policy. About half the room raised their hands. Then he asked how many of them were required to follow a state concussion law, and about 25 percent of the room raised their hands.

What struck me most about the discussion was the major disconnect high school athletic trainers have with the local physicians they refer their athletes to. Some athletic trainers said they’ve sent SCAT or SCAT2 forms with concussed athletes when they go to see their physician for clearance to play and the physician doesn’t even know what the form is for. Then, because they don’t know what to do with the information on the form, the physician sees that the athletes isn’t currently exhibiting any symptoms and clears them to play too early.

This was obviously of major concern to the other athletic trainers in the room. One of the best pieces of advice that emerged was to make sure your concussion policy is school policy. That way, even if an athlete’s physician clears them to play, the athlete is still required to go complete your school’s gradual return-to-play process.

The importance of also educating your local physicians was highlighted, too. One athletic trainer said that when her school district implemented its concussion guidelines, all of the local athletic trainers got together and went around to the areas clinics to explain to them what sort of forms they could expect to receive soon.


The NATA Hall of Fame induction ceremony was definitely a highlight. The ceremony itself was really well done and included video montages of interviews with each new hall of famer and their co-workers over the years.

All of the hall of famers also had a chance to speak and say thank you to some of the key people who have helped them throughout their careers. Some of the inductees were pretty emotional about receiving the honor, and I know there weren’t many dry eyes in the house at a few points during the presentation.

To learn more about the newest members of the Hall of Fame, check out the blog I wrote last week, A Round of Applause.


Mary Kirkland, MS, LAT, ATC, is head of Kennedy Space Center’s on-site athletic training facility, called KSC RehabWorks. Demonstrating the growing field of industrial or occupational setting athletic training, she spoke at a presentation this morning called It’s Not Rocket Science … Establishing a NASA Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinic.

Kirkland arrived at the Kennedy Space Center in 1989 as an exercise specialist. But after employees realized she had her ATC credential, they started asking her about various nagging injuries and how to fix them. She realized that the need for an on-site rehabilitation facility was great. After speaking to her mentor and boss about her idea, she designed RehabWorks. Her plan was approved and officially implemented in 1997.

Since then, it’s regularly expanded in facility size and number of staff members. Kirkland credits her meticulous documentation and record keeping for the growth. Without having solid data that showed how many Kennedy Space Center employees she was treating–and what types of injuries they were sustaining–approval for expansion and the purchasing of new equipment wouldn’t continue to come through.

Kirkland was even able to document that KSC RehabWorks saved NASA over $1 million last year when compared to off-site rehabilitation visits for employees. Not to mention the convenience factor. It takes employees about 20 minutes to even get off base at Cape Canaveral, then there’s the two-hour drive to the closest rehab facility.

For athletic trainers working in the industrial setting, or for those who are thinking about it, Kirkland noted that the hours are one of the best perks. Her job is a nine-to-five, five days a week obligation. She gets weekends off, as well as holidays. Not many athletic trainers can claim the same luxury.


I attended an interesting peer-to-peer discussion called Competency Assurance: The Changing Face of Recertification. There was some great discussion among the attending athletic trainers about continuing education, how education hours are reported, and the possibility of introducing a recertification test.

Many of the attendees posed questions to their peer athletic trainers during the session, and I jotted them down in my notebook. A lot of good discussion stemmed from these, so maybe they’ll get you thinking about the topic, too.

“We get good education when we attend workshops and seminars, but it doesn’t necessarily make us better athletic trainers … I may have learned how to do something new, but I didn’t get to try it in a hands-on setting, so I probably won’t actually institute this new thing in my practice. Then really how valuable was the education?”

“Should we be tracking CEU hours electronically?”

“What about informal education? We’ve all had conversations with our peers about maybe how to do something differently and I think that’s some of the most valuable education we get is from each other.”

“What is competence? Does the definition change from when we’re talking about a graduate student to a longtime athletic trainer or is it the same?”

“Do you come to the NATA Meeting to go to sessions that you already know a lot about, or do you come to go to sessions that are about new and different things you aren’t quite as knowledgeable in?”

“Should it be required that we go to sessions in each category or area of athletic training?”

“The athletic training profession is becoming more specialized. Do we all really still need to be experts in every area of athletic training? … Is it better to be competent in every area of an expert in one or two areas?”

“There is no measure of our competence after we take the BOC exam. Maybe there should be a re-test every few years.”


On Monday afternoon, I attended an educational session presented by the NATA Ethics Council called The Consequence of Choice: Ethical Dilemmas. The presenters were James Berry, EdD, ATC, NREMT, from Myrtle Beach High School, Gretchen Schlabach, PhD, ATC, from Northern Illinois University (also President of the Ethics Council), and Kimberly Peer, EdD, ATC, from Kent State University.

Though the atmosphere here at the Annual Meeting is a jubilant one, talking about ethics is a serious topic and one that shouldn’t be overlooked. Berry set the scene for the session when he asked the audience how many of us had read the NATA’s code of ethics in the past year, a surprisingly few number of hands went up.

The most common violation of the code of ethics is a breach of confidentiality. Berry said that this happens way more often than we might think. Unfortunately, it can be pretty easy for athletic trainers to slip. Berry knows this and in his own situation as an athletic trainer and teacher, he makes sure to avoid talking to an injured athlete about their injury when they are in the classroom. Even if the athlete brings it up, Berry explains to them that he is in teacher mode and can talk to them about their injury later in the day when he is in athletic trainer mode.

Here are Berry’s top tips for avoiding a violation of the code of ethics:

  • Know the code
  • Know the standards
  • Recognize when an ethical situation arises
  • Be sensitive to situations where an ethics issue may arise
  • Consult with others if you’re not sure the situation is a violation
  • Know when to report the situation to someone else (i.e. the Ethics Committee)
  • Document, document, document
  • Follow your conscience
  • Fully disclose your role as an athletic trainer
  • Consider all possible courses of action
  • Allow the athlete or patient to make a fully informed choice.

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