We all know that high school sports offer teenagers an array of benefits: they teach and promote a healthy lifestyle by incorporating exercise into a daily routine; studies show they help improve mental clarity and improve academic performance; and students who participate in team sports often develop close friendships with others on the team. But, of course, there are injuries. Like “love and marriage,” sports and injuries seem to “go together like a horse and carriage.” In fact, on average, high school athletes alone account for an estimated 2 million injuries, 500,000 doctor visits, and 30,000 hospitalizations each year.
Supporting Door County’s High School Athletes
Because the benefits of high school sports programs far outweigh the costs, the Sports Medicine Team at Door County Medical Center has been working with the Door County School District to prevent, reduce and minimize the effect of sports related injuries by providing, at no cost, athletic trainers to all four of the county’s high schools. This means that, in addition to working with students, coaches and parents to focus on injury prevention and conditioning, a certified athletic trainer is present for every practice and Door County sporting event that is currently in season. “Right now, we are in the middle of our football season,” says Alyssa Lee, Licensed Athletic Trainer with DCMC’s Sports Medicine Team, “but, at this time of year, we also cover men’s soccer, women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s cross country, as well as women’s swimming.” Additionally, the Sports Medicine Team strives to provide trainers not just to home games, but if needed, to away games as well. “Some school districts are not as lucky as ours,” states Ms. Lee, “they do not have full-time athletic trainers. And while they do their best to have coverage at their home events, that’s not always possible. If we know we are sending our sports team to a school or a location that will not have an athletic trainer, we do our best to send an athletic trainer to travel with that sports team.”
It’s About the Athletic Trainers
While a large group of physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and physical therapists make up the complete team that supports Door County’s high school athletes, Dr. Philip Arnold, certified sports medicine physician and Chair of the Sports Medicine Department, points out that when it comes to high school sporting events, “It’s about the trainers. The trainers are with the athletes day in and day out. They’re with them in practice, they’re with them during games, they’re on the sidelines, and so everything starts with the trainers in terms of high school sports and injuries.” He adds, “The doctors are not in charge; they’re on the sidelines. We are there to back the trainers up, in case there is a major problem. And we have EMS there so if they need to be packaged and transported, there is usually an ambulance squad at the game. But, again, the trainers know the athletes the best, and they know the athletes parents, who expect them to be involved, instead of some random doctor, who shows up twice a year to a game. My approach is: if the trainer signals that they need me then—boom—I’m right there.”
Prevention and Education
In the end, it comes down to not just preventing student athlete injuries, but also preventing injuries from getting worse. Ms. Lee points out that “Without the presence of an athletic trainer, or with no doctor on the sidelines, even an insignificant injury could get serious. Kids may not understand the seriousness of an injury; they could continue playing and actually make that injury worse. But, we do our best to educate, and if you explain an injury and the potential side-effects of continuing to play with an injury to a parent and an athlete, they generally make the correct decision in not playing.”
Door County Medical Center’s Sports Medicine Team is comprised of a wonderful group of experienced doctors, physical therapists and athletic trainers who provide a whole host of services that include training, prevention and rehabilitation, with an emphasis on the importance of early injury recognition and treatment in order to prevent recurring injuries. For more information, please visit http://dcmedical.org/Medical-Services/Sports-Medicine.