Why do Athletes Need Athletic Trainers? – Part 4, Advocacy

19 Jan

Why do athletes or athletic departments or teams need the services of an athletic trainer?  This will be a series of articles attempting to examine the unique and important roles that athletic trainers play in the lives of the people that they care for.

Part 4 – Advocate

In a recent news article (blogged here), Amy Donaldson tells the story of a BYU athlete who decided to give up playing football because of the risk of permanent brain damage after suffering several concussions.  It was an agonizing decision and a decision that the athlete made with the help of one of the ATs at BYU.  In another news article out of Arizona, school administrations weigh the options of allowing soccer players to play for their club teams and their school teams at the same time.  The importance of sports in our society has grown exponentially in the last 20 years to the point that most high school sports have year round requirements.  Some club teams have gotten to be so important that athletes are challenged to not even play for their high school team.  Gone are the days of the 3 sport athletes in many cases and gone are the days of having an off-season for many athletes.  Even though their are a lot more sports to choose from in high school these days, the demand to specialize in one sport has risen even higher.

What does this have to do with athletic training?  Plenty!  I am seeing overuse injuries in my training room that I never saw when I first started.  I am seeing injuries to middle school athletes that were normally experienced by college aged athletes.  I see kids burnt out on sports in 9th and 10th grades.   I see teams give up in the playoffs no longer desiring to continue their season because it really started just a few weeks after last year’s playoff lost.  I see kids show up to practice with no energy, no enthusiasm, no smile because they longer view the sport as a fun activity.  Involvement in youth sports should be FUN for the athlete!

Because of the injuries, because of the lack of sports science education by most coaches today, because of the psychological burn out and because of the relationship that ATs often develop with the athletes, ATs can often play an advocacy role for the athlete.  Parents, coaches and often players themselves put enormous pressure on themselves to succeed.  They want to win, they want to get a college scholarship, they want to improve at all costs.  While none of those desires are wrong, the pressure can often be overwhelming to a young athlete and having an outside influence to talk to can really help the athlete in need.  ATs often see the bigger picture clearer than the parents, coaches and the athletes.  We can often be the only voice of reason to the young athlete who has so much pressure on them, they don’t know what to think, who to listen to or what to do.  Too many of them just quit and that is sad.

Often when I get the chance to get together with other high school ATs, we end up talking about this subject and how we have acted as an advocate for certain athletes.  Because we have a relationship with the athletic director, coaches, parents and athletes and all parties know that we have the athlete’s best interest as our central focus, we can fill a unique and important role in the life of many athletes.  Too often these athletes “burn out”, quit, get injured, but hopefully with the relationship that we build with them, we can give them a voice and give them the ability to see the bigger picture.

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