March is National Athletic Training Month
Athletic Trainers Are Essential to Well-being of Pine Belt’s Young Athletes
Considered the first responders of the sports world, athletic trainers are vital to the health and well-being of student athletes across the Pine Belt.
However, there are things many people may not realize about what an athletic trainer (AT) is and the role they play in sports and beyond. Gary Stroud, manager for the sports medicine program at Hattiesburg Clinic Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, said there are some common misconceptions he’s heard in his 15 years as an AT.
Athletic trainers and personal trainers are one in the same.
NATA’s (National Athletic Trainers’ Association) theme for this year’s National AT Month in March puts it simply: ATs are health care.
“An athletic trainer is a highly skilled, highly qualified health care professional. We’re able to do many things, from emergency care, preventative measures, rehabilitation, different things like that to help our community, our patients and our student athletes,” said Stroud.
According to NATA, there’s a “major difference in the education, skillset, job duties and patients of an athletic trainer and a personal trainer.” The root of that difference is the fact that the academic curriculum and clinical training for an athletic trainer follows the medical model. Also, athletic trainers must graduate from an accredited baccalaureate or master’s program, and 70 percent of ATs have a master’s degree.
Athletic trainers only work during games.
Stroud said a lot of what an AT does takes place before or after the game.
“Even in our field, people who kind of have an idea of what athletic trainers are think all we do is tape ankles. But in all honesty, what you see me do on the field is probably the least of what I do.”
He said that helping to prevent injuries and assisting with rehabilitation following an injury are a large part of what an AT does. “We work long hours because we’re at all practices, we’re at all sporting events; and not only do we do that for all of our local schools, at Hattiesburg Clinic we also provide outreach for community activities, such as the Rise & Shine race.”
Stroud explained that athletic trainers are also used as “physician extenders,” meaning they can assist in clinic with a physician’s plan of care to help with casting, bracing and training patients on take-home rehab programs.
They only treat sports-related injuries.
While ATs specialize in orthopaedic care, they have general medical knowledge, said Stroud. That means they are able to diagnose and treat a variety of conditions that may not be sports-related, such as concussions, common cold symptoms, blood pressure issues, etc. “We’re like anybody else as far as health care providers are concerned because we are board certified; we take a national board certification test. We are a licensed health care provider by the State of Mississippi.”
Additionally, Stroud said ATs are equipped to respond in emergency medical situations, which could include anything from seizures to cardiac arrest and even circulatory shock that could result from a life-threatening incident.
Schools must pay for athletic training services.
This may be the case for some schools or organizations; however, Stroud pointed out that his team provides athletic trainers at 26 schools throughout the Pine Belt at no charge to the schools.
“None of our schools that we provide service to pay for our service. It is a community outreach that is provided by our program and by Hattiesburg Clinic.”
Stroud said at the end of the day, he wants parents to know that he and his team are looking out for their young athletes and their priority is keeping those kids out of the emergency room.
“When our athletic trainers step on campus, they are in control of the health care of those athletes, so it takes that role off those coaches, off those administrators who are not trained to do that. It’s not something they do everyday, but this is what we do; this is our livelihood. Our goal is to have the best interest of that kid at heart.”
To learn more about the role of an AT or Hattiesburg Clinic’s athletic training services, visit www.hattiesburgclinic.com/sports-medicine-team.