As you let your kids take the field on Friday night, I'm sure there is a piece of you stressing over the safety of your child. No one wishes to see their son or daughter helped off of the field with a sprained ankle, carted off with a broken bone, or spine boarded. However, these are risks that are simply a part of organized sports. This is especially true for contact sports such as football.
With this being said, many parents across the United States are gaining the peace of mind that if something of this nature were to happen to their child, there is a uniquely trained and fully qualified healthcare professional at or nearby every event or practice. These professionals are certified athletic trainers, and every single student athlete deserves the right to be under their care during their athletic careers.
As stated by the National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA), athletic trainers (ATs) are health care professionals who collaborate with physicians to optimize activity and participation of patients and clients. Athletic training encompasses the prevention, diagnosis and intervention of emergency, acute and chronic medical conditions involving impairment, functional limitations and disabilities. Though the name may be deceiving, ATs are not to be confused with personal trainers whom are trained to assist clients enhance their athletic abilities.
In order for a person to become an Athletic Trainer, one must attend a college or university that has a Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE) accredited program, and obtain a bachelor's degree in athletic training. While attending their respective schools, the athletic training students complete a wide range of courses that prepare them for the world of sports medicine. These courses' contents include, but are not limited to risk management and injury prevention, pathology of injuries and illnesses, orthopedic clinical examination and assessment, acute care of injuries and illness, therapeutic modalities, conditioning and rehabilitative exercise, health care administration, and so on. During their years in the program, each student participates in clinical observation and experience. Sites for these clinical settings range from college and high school sports to operating rooms, and doctors' offices. After gaining eligibility during the second semester of their senior year, the students must also sit for and pass the Board of Certification exam. Upon passing and graduating, they earn their professional certification and recognition as Certified Athletic Trainers (ATC).
Though West Virginia is behind most of the United States when it comes to the subject of sports safety, great strides are being made by athletic trainers, parents, and politicians to make sure that our student athletes are properly cared for, thus creating a safer environment for all athletes. Know the first step is ensuring that every school in the state provides a certified athletic trainer for their athletic programs and phase out the out dated and unsafe "football limited trainers." Every sport deserves proper coverage. If you're no sure that your child's school has a certified athletic trainer; you should call the school and county board of education and ask. If a qualified person is not provided, continue to request that one is hired. This is truly a matter of child safety and something that West Virginians should take seriously.
Kris Smith, ATC