Mar 5, 2024
UConn’s KSI innovATe program receives additional $3M

The University of Connecticut’s Korey Stringer Institute (KSI) has received an additional $3 million for its innovATe (Improving Needed Nationwide Opportunities & Value of Athletic Trainer Employment) program.

The innovATe program provides funds for school districts across the country to hire athletic trainers. It is a collaborative project administered by KSI and funded by the Education Fund established as part of the NFL Concussion Litigation settlement.

innovateA recent story from UConn Today detailed the KSI program and how it supports high school athletic trainers.

Below is an excerpt from the UConn Today story.

“Every athlete should have access to the quality medical care that an athletic trainer provides. innovATe is helping to close the gap in under-resourced school communities across the country,” says Christianne Eason, director of innovATe, KSI president of sport safety and education, and assistant professor in residence of kinesiology.

This renewal will allow the program to welcome its three more cohorts between 2024 and 2026, supporting a total of 12 new school districts. Each cohort will receive funding for three years.

Boston Public Schools (BPS) was part of the first innovATe cohort in 2021. They partnered with Mass General Brigham and now employ seven full-time athletic trainers for their high schools, with additional per diem support with plans to continue expanding.

“This aligns with our healthcare system’s mission to serve the needs of all communities, to support all communities, especially those that may have limited resources,” says William Desjardins, operations manager of athletic training for Mass General Brigham.

Before innovATe, BPS relied on per diem athletic trainers for medical care. innovATe allows athletic trainers to be fully integrated into the schools’ athletic programs and build relationships with athletes and coaches.

“Knowing that you need athletic training expertise at more than just the required sports, knowing that the continuity of care is an important piece, knowing that just given our size, our student population – these are things that we needed to have as tangible resources in our district,” says Avery Esdaile, senior director of athletics at BPS.

While the school nurse provides healthcare for students during the school day, athletic trainers are there during students’ extracurricular activities. They have the necessary expertise in sports medicine to manage acute injuries and illnesses, promote injury prevention programs, and after injury has occurred, guide rehabilitation and help students return to play.

“I think we as athletic trainers are sometimes thought of as those who just tape ankles and patch up skinned knees,” says James Zachazewski, clinical supervisor of athletic training for Mass General Brigham. “But I think the advent of COVID, the increased emphasis on the proper management of head injury and concussion, and everything else that the athletic trainer is responsible for has taught us the athletic training room is no longer just a training room. It should be considered an athletic healthcare center, and equivalent to the school nurse’s office.”

Thanks to innovATe, BPS has become a leader in the region through initiatives such as a program focused on injury prevention in female athletes, who have different risks than their male counterparts.

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“It’s showing that BPS went from where they were a few years ago to now being ahead of some of those schools in the suburbs, which is impressive to see,” says Michael Belanger, director of athletic training at Mass General Brigham.

Another first-cohort recipient, Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) partnered with Mercy Health to provide athletic training services. innovATe specifically supports three of the smallest schools in the district that had been sharing athletic trainers with larger schools: the Spencer Center, Riverview East Academy, and Oyler School.

To read the full story from UConn Today, click here. 

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