As sports parents, we watch closely what goes on the field. But the skills of the adults off the field are critical in the event of a child’s injury.
If the trauma involves a suspected concussion, a hard blow to the chest or abdomen, or a spinal cord injury treating it properly can mean the difference between life or death, between a lifetime of mobility or a lifetime of paralysis.
The stakes are high, but our kids are playing hard.
“More of them are getting injured at a younger age than ever before, what I used to see happening just to the pros, now happens to 13-year-olds,” says Dr. James Andrews, a nationally recognized orthopedic surgeon and founder of the American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham, Alabama.
Seattle Children’s each year expands the reach of its Athletic Trainers Program, currently working with 18 area high schools, getting certified athletic trainers in the schools after school during practices and during games.
Program manager Phil Heywood answers some common questions below and explains how these trainers make a difference:
Depending on the season, you have hundreds of youth athletes practicing at any given high school, a dozen or so different coaches, how does the trainer split their time between teams?
Our highest priority is the “collision” sports: football, soccer, lacrosse. Next, are the “high risk” sports, which include basketball and gymnastics, then finally the “low risk” sports such as running, tennis, golf, which isn’t to say things can’t happen in those sports but usually they are chronic injuries.
The trainers are on-site; their schedule is posted so everyone knows where they are at any given time. And, the coaches all have the trainer’s cell number in their phones too. If there is an emergency the trainer can still be there right away to evaluate the child, and say for instance if someone needs a spine board, or if it’s something like a kidney laceration from a lacrosse ball, the trainer knows to call for immediate emergency transport.
In addition to diagnosing and responding to injuries, the trainer can help teams in other ways too?
In terms of prevention, we pride ourselves on education, on teaching coaches, parents and athletes proper technique and what do watch out for in different sports. But also, if there is an emergency situation, when chain of command is so important, the trainer can take charge. I’ve seen when a trainer is not in place and something bad happens, it is chaos, people taking out their cell phones and making videos. You need one person in charge so others can do crowd control, making way for the ambulance that sort of thing.
Regarding those chronic injuries, given that an estimated half of all youth sports injuries are from overuse, can trainers spot those too?
Absolutely, when one trainer is there day in and day out, they get to know the athletes. Similar to how a parent knows when something isn’t right with their kid, a trainer can spot when an athlete is moving differently. Most major overuse injuries could have been prevented if they had been treated right when they were just minor injuries. We can be the ones to tell a coach or the athletes themselves that they need to sit out.
Click here for more information on getting a certified trainer in your school or sports organization.
Hilary Benson is the TV Editor at ParentMap and a longtime news reporter. Her family includes three active kids who help fuel her passion for keeping children safe while they compete in the sports they love.