National Athletic Trainers’ Association Recommends Winning Combination to Support High School Sports Safety

As fans around the world celebrated Super Bowl Sunday, winning teams and sports safety always remain top of mind.

What does the Championship Team have in common with the top 25* 2016 high school football programs?

All have one or more athletic trainers to reduce injury and provide medical care.

“Athletic trainers are vital to the success of a championship team,” says Scott Sailor, EdD, ATC, president of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association. “NATA has had a longstanding commitment to athlete health and wellness and that starts at the high school and youth levels. ATs are critical to a school’s sports medicine program in helping to reduce risk of injury and provide appropriate care and treatment.”

The important role of athletic trainers is also evident by many state practices. For example, for those schools that do not have an athletic trainer, state activity associations often pay for medical coverage during a championship game. “While that offers a temporary solution, the goal is for health care to be provided year-round and during all games and practices,” adds Sailor. According to Safe Kids, 62 percent of organized sports-related injuries occur during practice.**

NATA also recommends athletes at any level properly acclimatize to their sport, have pre-participation exams and should they reach playoffs or championship games, prepare for an extended length of seasons. When the regular season is extended, athletes may experience fatigue and be at even greater risk of overuse injuries. In high school and youth sports leagues, in particular, there’s a very short time gap between the end of one sport’s season and the start of the next. Athletic trainers can help modify the intensity of workouts that could otherwise lead to fatigue or burnout and restrict activity based on specific needs.

While all of the top 25 high school football programs have the benefit of an athletic trainer, some provide additional AT support. One of those schools is DeSoto High School in DeSoto, Texas. The school district’s program has expanded to include seven athletic trainers who provide health care services to the high school as well as the district’s three middle schools year-round. “The athletic trainers who serve the students of DeSoto Independent School District are an integral part of the fabric of our athletic programs,” said Larry Davis, DeSoto ISD athletic director. “We depend on their expertise and guidance to keep our athletes safe and healthy. I cannot imagine having a successful athletic program without the professional services of an athletic trainer.”

“It’s critical that all athletes – not just those on potential championship teams or otherwise – and athletic programs have sports safety best practices in place,” says Sailor.

NATA suggests five questions parents should ask their school regarding its sports safety measures:

  1. Who comprises the school’s sports medicine team?
  2. Does the school have an emergency action plan?
  3. Is the athletic equipment in working order?
  4. Are locker rooms, gyms and shower surfaces cleaned on a regular basis?
  5. Does the school have an AED and is someone trained to use it?

In its continued commitment to student health and safety, NATA and the Youth Sports Safety Alliance, comprising nearly 280 sport and health organizations, will host the eighth Youth Sports Safety Summit at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis on March 6-7, 2017. This year’s theme is “Less Risk, More Reward: Emphasizing Safety and Encouraging Success.”

Additionally, for the third year, NATA has teamed up with the NFL Foundation, Gatorade and the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society and recently announced the launch of a pilot program to provide funding to public high schools with football programs that have limited or no access to an athletic trainer. The Foundation will award up to 150 grants to high schools in four pilot states. Grants in the amount $35,000 will be awarded over a three-year period to fund an athletic training program.

*According to MaxPreps Freeman high school football rankings.
** www.safekids.org/preventing-sports-related-injuries 

About NATA: National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) – Health Care for Life & Sport
Athletic trainers are health care professionals who specialize in the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries and sport-related illnesses. They prevent and treat chronic musculoskeletal injuries from sports, physical and occupational activity, and provide immediate care for acute injuries. Athletic trainers offer a continuum of care that is unparalleled in health care. The National Athletic Trainers’ Association represents and supports 43,000 members of the athletic training profession. Visit www.nata.org. At Your Own Risk is NATA’s public awareness campaign designed to educate, provide resources and equip the public to act and advocate for safety in work, life and sport. In an effort to provide comprehensive information, the association has launched a website that provides recommendations on keeping student athletes and communities active and employees safe on the job. Visit AtYourOwnRisk.org.