Trainers will work with school athletes

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 22, 2011

By Sarah Campbell
When student athletes begin competing next school year, they’ll have another weapon in their arsenal: certified athletic trainers.
Rowan Regional Medical Center will provide three full-time athletic trainers to work with high schools in the Rowan-Salisbury School System.
“We’re excited because this is something that we’ve been doing for a long time behind the scenes,” said Gary Blabon, administrator for RoMedical.
RoMedical already has two certified athletic trainers who rotate between the district’s high schools and one full-time trainer at East Rowan.
“Right now, RoMed will send someone out to all of the high schools once a week to do a quick injury evaluation,” said Dr. Jim Sabo, East Rowan’s certified athletic trainer. “That’s great, but what happens the rest of the time?”
Sabo, who will serve as director of the athletic training program, said adding three full-time trainers will benefit students.
“It’s going to take the welfare of the student athletes to a whole new level of care,” he said.
Dr. Harrison Latimer, orthopedic surgeon and medical director for RoMedical’s sports medicine program, said more manpower will allow athletic trainers to pay closer attention to details that could affect athletes later.
“There is a much greater understanding that maybe these traumatic injuries can lead to problems down the road,” he said. “The concern is what can we do differently while they are playing sports to make their lifetime after sports better.
“The criteria is evolving and we want to be at the forefront of what needs to be monitored.”
Latimer said the athletic trainers will be able to oversee conditioning programs, make sure that appropriate stretching and strengthening programs are in place to decrease the chance of future injury and conduct preventative programs such as icing and post-practice stretching.
“This is really taking it to the next level where we’re able to provide a really comprehensive program that takes all of the medical concerns and the health concerns away from the coaches and the school adminstration,” he said.
Latimer said athletic trainers have the knowledge to identify problems without clear symptoms.
“Heat-related illness and sudden cardiac death are the main overwhelming concerns,” he said.
The ability to closely monitor athletes with head injuries will be another advantage.
Latimer said it’s important to have people in place that are “in touch with and on top of” evaluation standards.
“We keep athletes out longer after a head injury now than we used to,” he said.
Sabo said although athletic trainers will be working to help prevent players from getting hurt, they are also vital in assessing injuries after they occur.
“I think with a certified athletic trainer that initial evaluation and then the real quick initial treatment will be key to getting that athlete back quicker and safer,” he said. “We’re here to protect the athlete and make sure that person doesn’t go back too early.”
Joe Pinyan, Salisbury High School’s athletic director and head football coach, said he thinks adding athletic trainers is a “positive deal” for both players and coaches.
“The more people you can get on the field around your program, the better you are taking care of your individual athletes,” he said. “I think that extra set of eyes is always very, very beneficial.”
Pinyan said he already takes precautions to keep his athletes healthy.
“When we practice we very seldom hit,” he said. “Most of our injuries come during games.
“Our philosophy is if you don’t have them well on Friday night, then you can’t win.”
Pinyan said to combat heat-related illness he sets up water stations.
“We’ve got more water out there than they can possibility drink,” he said.
Although, Pinyan said, the team doctors “have been very good to us,” he feels having a licensed athletic trainer at every school would be ideal and having four total is a good start.
“This may take a little bit of heat off of them as far as them having to be on call for us,” he said.
Footing the bill
Dr. Judy Grissom, superintendent for the school system, said recently that although she’s wanted to hire athletic trainers for a while the district simply hasn’t had the funds.
“Right now our schools are going through budgetary issues as all government agencies and Dari Caldwell felt that it was very important that Rowan Regional Medical center stepped up,” Blabon said.
Caldwell, president of Rowan Regional, shared the news with the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education last month.
“We are willing to support the salaries of those athletic trainers because we think that it is the right thing to do for our community,” she said. “We feel that it’s one thing to be a great hospital, but it’s more important to be a leader in the community, particularly in health care.”
Hospital officials did not disclose how much the salaries of the athletic trainers will cost.
18 years and counting
Hiring athletic trainers for the area high schools is an expansion of the hospital’s partnership with the school system.
The hospital and RoMed have been providing medical support to student athletes for the past 18 years.
RoMed administers free annual physicals to high school athletes to screen for and identify risk factors, including cardiac concerns.
Latimer said the physicals follow state guidelines, measuring height, weight and blood pressure.
RoMedical also offers free injury clinics for all athletes from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturdays in the fall.
“If people get evaluated on Saturday versus Monday or Tuesday, they get a 48- or 72-hour jump on their recovery,” Blabon said.
“We never want a child to be without health care because we couldn’t find a way to make that happen here in our community,” she said.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.