Wow, the month of February and March have been a flurry of activity for me. I have been able to provide athletic training care to thousands of athletes at a youth soccer tournament, PIAA District Wrestling Championships, PIAA State Wrestling Championships, PA Junior Wrestling State Championships as well as my own athletes at my employer. While providing these services to these groups, I was keenly aware of the amount of athletes who don’t get these services.
In an article on the Discovery Networks website, the author explores the possibility of “Smart Helmets” changing the future of youth sports. The author quotes:
Identifying the injury is only the first step, the authors note. Smart helmets aren’t a diagnostic tool; rather, the technology could help make the connection between an athlete who may have an injury and a medical assessment. When a sensor is triggered, the athlete would need evaluation from a trained professional on-site or a referral for off-site medical evaluation.
This one paragraph clearly delineates our profession’s role in Youth Sports. I am all for this smart technology that will clearly indicate when a possible concussive hit has been absorbed by an athlete of any age. But a fancy LED display that indicates an excessive force is useless if their isn’t a medical professional there to clinically evaluate the athlete. Youth football leagues need to provide athletic training services to these athletes.
Little Baseball is suffering a similar issue with pitch counts, curve ball debates and pitchers throwing with sore arms. Pitch counts are a great tool, but they are limited in scope. Many of the better players are playing on 2 or even 3 baseball teams at the same time. Other youth baseball players are playing for 9 or 10 months of the year. Research has shown that it isn’t the type of pitch that is thrown (i.e. curve ball), it is the volume of pitches that are thrown. The volume of pitches thrown dramatically increase when you play for 2-3 teams a year. Who is watching out for these young athletes? Who can these young athletes approach to evaluate their arm pain without their parents making the first contact?
I firmly believe it is our profession of athletic training that can make a difference in these young athletes’ health and lives. As my friend and colleague has in his email tagline “Every athlete deserves an athletic trainer.” I wholeheartedly agree from ages 7 to 70 and up. If you are involved in organized athletics, you not only deserve an athletic trainer; you need an athletic trainer.