Column: Sports Health

By Liz Ostrowski

March is National Athletic Training Month, a time when athletic trainers across America are being recognized for their commitment to helping people prevent injuries and stay healthy and active. Athletic trainers are health care professionals.  Highly educated and dedicated to the job at hand, athletic trainers can be found in high schools and colleges, corporations, professional sports, the military, performing arts and clinics, hospitals and physician offices.  The team of ATs at Lake Region Healthcare work in our clinic and in our area schools, standing by the AT month slogan, “Your protection is our priority.”

Athletic trainers are experts

Working to prevent and treat musculoskeletal injuries and sports-related illnesses, athletic trainers offer an unparalleled continuum of care. ATs are part of a team of health care professionals; they practice under the direction of and in collaboration with physicians. ATs work with individuals who are physically active or involved in sports participation through all stages of life to prevent, treat and rehabilitate injuries and medical conditions. Athletic trainers should not be confused with personal trainers or “trainers” who focus solely on fitness and conditioning.  It’s important to refer to an “athletic trainer” or “AT” appropriately to ensure clarity of profession and quality of care.

Athletic trainers save lives

Sports injuries can be serious. Brain and spinal cord injuries and conditions such as heat illness can be life threatening if not recognized and properly managed. ATs are equipped to treat acute injuries on the spot. Yet active people can have chronic illnesses as well. People with diabetes and asthma can and do safely work and exercise, and ATs help manage these critical health issues as they relate to physical exertion.

Not all athletes wear jerseys

ATs can be the first line of defense in workplace health and wellness. The duties of many workers — such as baggage handlers, dancers, soldiers and police officers — require range of motion, strength and stamina and pose a risk for musculoskeletal injuries. ATs work with individuals in various settings to help prevent injuries and return patients to full activity whether it is for work or play.

The athletic trainer is the health care system for athletes and others

Athletic trainers are on site. They work with patients to avoid injuries. They’re present when injuries occur and they provide immediate care; they rehabilitate patients after injuries or surgery. It’s a continuum of care. They know their patients well because they are at the school, in the theater or on the factory floor every day.

Athletic trainers take responsibility and mitigate risk

School administrators, athletics directors and coaches have their own jobs, which may pose a conflict of interest with athlete safety; they are not experts in managing injuries or sports-related illnesses, nor should they be responsible for doing so. Treating injuries at school or at work when appropriate, rather than sending the patient to the emergency department, can save money and time loss — and gets the patient back to activity faster. Just as professional athletes do, recreational athletes should have access to athletic trainers.

What can you do to help us celebrate National Athletic Training Month this March?  Just follow these important tips:

• Before participating in physical activity, see your physician for a physical exam.

• Always make sure there is an emergency action plan in place.

• During exercise, drink to thirst or based on individual needs depending on sweat rate.

• Avoid tobacco, alcohol and other harmful drugs.

• Have access to an athletic trainer. We are here to help you and your protection is our priority.

Do you have a question regarding sports medicine that you would like to see addressed in this space in the future?  Send your questions to SportsMed@lrhc.org and it may be featured in an upcoming article.

Liz Ostrowksi is an athletic trainer for Lake Region Healthcare.

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