A safer approach to
work, life and sport

ADVOCATES FOR SAFETY

A safer approach to work, life and sport

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Back to School Means Back to Sports – Is Your School Prepared?

Amanda Muscatell 17 August 2018
Students and parents all around the country are kicking off a new school year. Behind the scenes, school staffers have devoted countless hours of planning and preparation to make this year a success. Most parents know that teachers invest time, resources and energy on things like lesson planning, classroom set up and classroom policies to create an environment where children can learn and thrive. Undoubtedly, there is a lot of work that must happen before the real teaching even begins.
But what about preparing for student athletes to return to sport? What needs to be done to provide the safest environment possible for athletes and who is responsible for it?
Athletic directors, coaches and athletic trainers work collaboratively to provide safe conditions for student athletes to workout, practice and compete. Athletic trainers (ATs) are medical professionals who provide a unique and unbiased continuum of care – from implementing preventative measures, to acute care for injuries like concussions, and rehabilitative care and return to play protocols. Like teachers, ATs spend the summer months preparing for the next school year.

6 Ways ATs Prepare for Back to School

Facility Improvements

Athletes deserve to practice, play and receive necessary medical care in safe and clean environments. This means inspecting playing fields and courts for potential hazards and recommending and coordinating necessary repairs. ATs also work to improve patient care through access to cooling systems during high heat and disinfecting systems to prevent or reduce the spread of infectious diseases. Many ATs use their own time and resources to make other improvements to the facility, like painting the athletic training room and adding school logos.

Supplies

During the offseason, ATs must inventory and restock medical supplies to treat acute injuries and illnesses and provide rehabilitative care. ATs must ensure that the athletic training room and all medical kits are stocked are ready before athletes return. ATs must ensure there is adequate and working hydration equipment and that a sanitation system is in place for these supplies. ATs also check that all automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are in working order and within the recommended range of each practice and game location.

Athletic Equipment

Schools must make sure that athletic equipment is properly fitted and maintained. ATs play an important role in ensuring that the equipment is approved for use by the appropriate safety organizations, coordinating coaches’ education related to fitting equipment, and establishing and reviewing policies for how to maintain, clean and sanitize equipment for athlete safety. ATs inspect helmets, pads and other athlete equipment during the summer prior to athlete use.

Emergency Readiness

Perhaps one of the most important things that ATs do during the offseason is ensure that schools are ready to handle an emergency. Participation in sports carries an inherent risk of injury, so schools that offer athletics must be prepared to handle emergencies. ATs work with coaches, administrators and other medical professionals to develop, rehearse and implement comprehensive, venue-specific, emergency action plans. An emergency action plan (EAP) outlines roles and responsibilities for handling a crisis like a catastrophic injury, inclement weather and, sadly, even active shooter situations. It details things like who will render first aid? Who will call EMS? How will parents be notified? Is there a communication system in place at all athletic practices and games? These plans must be reviewed, at minimum, on an annual basis and take things like school construction in to consideration.

Policy and Procedures

Similar to a teacher’s classroom policies and procedures, ATs use the summer months to develop, review and update their athletic training policies and procedures manual. This document outlines information related to the athletic training services for the AT, other sports medicine staff, coaches, school administration, parents and student athletes. These documents include important information such as:
  • Job responsibilities
  • Athletic training room hours and rules
  • Injury treatment policies
  • Administrative duties
  • Medical clearance and necessary documentation
  • Referral protocols
  • Sporting and event coverage; home versus away policies
ATs use this time to make sure their policies and procedures are compliant with the latest research, rule changes, legislative updates and new school or district requirements.

Communication and Education

Communication is key! Especially when working with numerous school staff, medical personnel, student athletes and their parents. ATs use the summer months to host meetings and prepare communication and educational material for the new school year. ATs educate parents and student athletes on various health topics and policies. ATs can provide training to coaches on CPR, AED and equipment fitting, as well as the latest rule changes or updates to policies and procedures (such as using a new electronic medical records system).
Currently, only 37% of public secondary schools have access to a full time athletic trainer. By employing a full time athletic trainer, schools and parents can rest assured that a dedicated health care professional has prioritized their athlete’s health and safety. Does your school provide a full time athletic trainer? If not, ask questions and start a conversation to determine what can be done to improve sports safety for athletes at your school.