Trainers help sports injuries

Katy Murray
Staff Writer

   The number of injuries in sports can rise faster than the score in a game. Prevention efforts play an important role in the defensive line battling this problem.

   Injuries forever exist in the lives of college athletes. At many colleges, student athletes constantly roam in and out of the training room each day. An athlete totally free of pain can rarely be found. 

   “When I began as a high school athletic trainer in 1973, all we had at the time was ice and a whirlpool.  We also used a lot of massage,” said Ken Cole, head athletic trainer at Southern Arkansas University.  

  New technologies over the years, however, increased the effectiveness of athletic healthcare to treat all injuries, from sprained ankles to knee injuries to cervical spine injuries. Many injuries result from years of competing at the high school level, while others come from hours of grueling practices. Nevertheless many high school athletes get recruited to play for college teams.

   These students usually retain a scholarship while playing for an institution and therefore play at a greater risk of loss. If badly injured, a player could oftentimes face surgery and then hours of difficult rehabilitation. Such circumstances can potentially ruin an athlete’s career and prevention becomes an excellent defense against this problem.

   Going through rehabilitation can be more trying for many athletes than hours of intensive practice. Since injuries play an inherent part in sports, trainers must always be on hand to aid these students.

   According to Physician and Sports Medicine, the number of high school and college football fatalities and nonfatal catastrophic injuries decreased dramatically after 1976. Then between 1982 and 1997, the numbers fluctuated but remained much lower than the 1960s and early 1970s, and deaths reached a historic low of zero in 1990. These positive statistics can mostly be contributed to the advances in sports medicine and technology. They can also be credited to the many preventative measures in place already proving successful: 

  • Continued enforcement of the ban on initial contact with the head in blocking and tackling, along with coaching in the proper skills of blocking and tackling.

  • Ongoing research on helmet safety, continuing the effort that led to the establishment of a helmet standard by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment.

  • Improved medical care for injured athletes, including hiring of athletic trainers and the writing of emergency plans for catastrophic injuries at all high schools and colleges.

   According to Cole, the change in technology over the past 10 years helped athletes back to participation faster as well.

   “When you look at the speed at which the body heals, we find that if you totally rest an injury it will heal in ... 14 days,” Cole said.  “If we use the technology that is available to us and we treat the athlete every day, the injury will heal one to three days quicker. Now that may not seem to be much faster, but for an athlete it could mean playing in the next game.”

   The athletic trainer acts as the one health care provider who deals with all aspects of the athlete’s medical conditions. From the time of the initial injury or illness to the time the athlete returns to full activity, their job never ends. They concentrate on prevention of sports injuries and offer a method of injury protection to athletes. 

   Other prevention methods include pre-participation physical examinations, safety facilities and equipment, emergency procedures, coach’s cooperation with sports officials and continued sports-related research. Injuries unavoidably occur in all genres of sports and student athletes may find health and training facilities useful and necessary during their careers from high school to college and maybe even on to professional sports.

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