ADVOCATES FOR SAFETY
5 Ways Athletic Trainers Protect their Athletes and High School Through DocumentationOne important but lesser-known way athletic trainers (ATs) keep their school and athletes safe is through careful documentation. By implementing (if necessary) and managing a standardized system for sports medicine documentation at your school, ATs are able to identify injury trends, provide the best medical care possible and protect the school from litigation.
1. Identifying and Remedying Injury Trends
By implementing and maintaining a database of student athlete health records, ATs are able to detect school injury trends. Upon recognizing gender, age, or time of season-specific injury patterns, ATs can make recommendations to stem these trends such as changes to pre-practice stretches or drills.
2. Improving the Quality of Medical Care Provided at School
In addition to identifying injury trends, proper documentation allows ATs to provide highly personalized medical care. With documentation, ATs can review an athlete’s preparticipation physical examination (PPE) and injury history before providing treatment, greatly increasing the quality of medical care received. Depending on your school or district documentation standards, this could include objective information such as when the injury first surfaced as well as subjective information such as an eyewitness account of how the injury occurred.
3. Improving the Quality of Medical Care Provided Outside of School
In the event that an athlete requires medical care beyond the scope of the AT, an outside medical provider can request and review the athlete’s sports health records to ensure the best possible approach to treatment. After treatment, if the athlete is to follow a rehabilitation schedule, the AT can document and communicate their progress to the overseeing physician.
4. Ensuring that the School Provides Adequate Medical Services
While we recommend at least one full time AT at every high school, for some high schools one AT isn’t enough. By recording the number of athletes overseen, treatments given and athletic events covered, a school’s sports medicine team can strengthen their case for a staff expansion.
5. Protecting the School from Litigation
In most cases of severe student athlete injury no action is needed beyond a trip to the physician and perhaps routine surgery. There are however a number incidents each year throughout the country that result in litigation against the school. A good way to protect your school from such litigation is by providing the best possible medical care and holding student athlete health documentation to a high standard. Since ATs document all student interactions, evaluations and treatments consistently and thoroughly no matter how minor, in the event of litigation, your school will have defensible evidence that the best possible medical care was provided and protocol was followed.
Larry Cooper, MS, LAT, ATC is the District 2 Representative to the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) Secondary School Athletic Trainers Committee (SSATC). He has been a teacher and certified athletic trainer for 34 years, spending most of that time at Penn Trafford High School in Harrison City, Pennsylvania. Larry is a founding member of the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Leagues (WPIAL) Sports Medicine Advisory Committee. He continues to work as a Master Assessor for the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Associations (PIAA) Wrestling Weight Loss Rule.
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