News – Athletic Trainers Play Key Role in Friday Night Football

5 Sep

Alabama – Tom Smith, writer for the Times Daily, takes some time to highlight the unnoticed workhorses in thousands of high schools across the country – the athletic trainer.  The article takes the unique view point of several coaches who have gone without the services of an AT and now work for schools who provide the services of an athletic trainer.

Colbert Heights football coach Ivan Denton said he would hate to go back to the days when his coaching staff was responsible for the duties of an athletic trainer.

“I can remember what it was like before we had a trainer to do the taping and evaluating injuries,” Denton said. “Years ago I did it, and I could do it again. I just hope I don’t have to anymore.”

Denton’s school, like others in the area, has the services of a certified athletic trainer.

Helen Keller Wellness Center provides the services of athletic trainer Jonathan Ratliff to assist the school.

“We rely on him for all our athletic training needs, from taping to ordering braces to doing followups with the players who are injured,” Denton said.

Having played sports at a small Christian school, I never had the services of an AT.  This included my years of playing college football.  But times have changed and most football coaches now want an AT around.

Red Bay football coach Dale Jeffreys hasn’t had the luxury of an athletic trainer for three years. He and the other coaches share the duties and responsibilities.

“I’d love to have one. If you know where we can find one let me know,” Jeffreys said.

Mr. Jeffereys, please contact the National Athletic Trainers Association at  I assure you, if you can create a full time position at your school to provide athletic training services to all your athletes, you will have no problem finding a qualified AT if the pay is competitive.

He said Red Bay Hospital used to provide a trainer for the school. Things got worse when the athletic training internship program was cut at the University of North Alabama, where many trainers learned the skill. The result: “There just aren’t enough to go around anymore,” Jeffreys said.

“It’s a challenge for us,” he said.

“If we get someone banged up or hurt during a game or practice, we’ve got to take time away from coaching to deal with the injury.”

This is a problem.  Many coaches are capable of handling basic first aid and performing CPR if they are certified, but this knowledge is far below the education and experience of an AT.  School districts are very resistant to hiring uncertified teachers to teach children in the classroom, but they are resistant to hire a nationally board certified athletic trainer who provides a high standard of health care for all athletes.   Shouldn’t the health of the student athletes receive the same standard of care as their education?

Coach Denton as well as the author of the article agrees:

“The athletic trainers are certified and they can help pinpoint injuries and what needs to be done to help the player get over the injury,” Denton said. “I can’t say enough about what the [athletic] trainers do for us. They’re an asset. I don’t know what we would do without them, and to be honest, I don’t want to find out.”

I agree Coach, I don’t want to find out!

The only issue that I have with the article is the title can lead the casual reader to assume that the AT is only present on Friday night.  We all know that isn’t true.  We are often there long before anyone shows up and long after everyone has left.  We are there for the practices in the heat, cold, rain, snow, etc.  We are there for the scrub and the star.  We are there for the sub-varsity games where the only fans are the moms.  We are there at the finish line of the cross country race, on the soccer pitch and field hockey sideline.  The point is we are always there for all the athletes.

For those that read the entire article, the author does delve into this aspect of athletic training:

Steven Sewell, a certified athletic trainer with the Bone and Joint Clinic in Florence, has been working with area high school teams for the past eight years.

“We’re at a school every day, especially once the school year starts,” Sewell said. “We cover every sport, but football gets priority because it is so injury prone.”

Sewell covers Rogers, Wilson and Mars Hill. Since Mars Hill doesn’t have a varsity football team, in the fall he spends much of his days between Rogers and Wilson.

“If taping is needed, I do it. If they need braces or braces adjusted, I do it. Whatever is needed in the way of athletic training I do it,” Sewell said.

On game nights he’s on the sidelines at one of the schools.

“The perfect situation is that I stand on the sidelines all night and just watch the game,” Sewell said. “If we don’t have to do anything, it means no one has gotten hurt, which is a good thing. But we’re there if anything happens.

“The main focus of what we do is to be an extension of the physicians. I tell people we are the step right before the doctor. We can evaluate an injury and determine if it is severe enough that the player needs to see the doctor.”

While I believe that Steve Sewell’s situation is less than ideal (caring for 3 schools), he is easily available for all athletes and that is important.   I am sure that he is working hard to educate the administrations and school boards of these schools that they could have better access and quality of care if they provided an athletic trainer for each school.

We all need to work towards improving athletic training care by seeing that all colleges and secondary schools provide appropriate levels of staffing to provide athletic training services to all student athletes.  Athletic trainers are the best health care provider for this need!


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