During the month of March we will continually highlight the work of an athletic trainer. This series will incorporate open letters about the men and women of the profession from other professionals, the aim is to have at least one a week. If there are others out there; parents, coaches, teachers, doctors, lawyers, athletes or anyone that would like to form a letter please do so and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The blog has provided me with the pleasure of communicating with some very ‘stout’ individuals in the concussion and head trauma research area. Mainly the correspondence is one-way (me asking for time and questions) with the cordial “you are doing great work” and other insightful “things.” For the protection of research and institutions a lot of the information is mainly off the record and I will never do anything to shatter the trust. That is why I was honored and taken aback when I received this letter about athletic trainers and the field of concussions, he wants to remain anonymous and would like everyone to know that he is a “concussion researcher”.
I hope that athletic trainers are honored by this and the other readers take a second and really read his words, they mean A LOT.
March is National Athletic Trainers’ month. This is a good time to thank those that make our participation in sports and athletics safe, or to take some time to learn a little about what these people do. While Athletic Trainers are jokingly referred to as ‘water boys’ or ‘ankle tapers’ their job entails much much more. It spans from conducting injury prevention protocols (think about training techniques to prevent ankle sprains), injury evaluation and immediate return to play decision making (think sideline concussion diagnosis), and injury rehabilitation (think about the 6 months of post-ACL rehabilitation that doesn’t stop after 8 visits when your insurance runs out). Being on the front lines of injury evaluation, Athletic Trainers must be well versed in a number of athletic injuries and none is more important than concussions.
Athletic Trainers are the best in the world at concussion identification, diagnosis, and return to play management. In my many years of dealing specifically with concussive injuries, I have never seen an Athletic Trainer knowingly returned a concussed athlete to play. Yet, I have seen physicians return athletes with blatant concussive symptoms. And while there are several physicians that conduct sport concussion research, none are producing more meaningful or prolific work than the athletic trainers. Athletic Trainers were the first to identify that once you’ve had one concussion you are more likely to have a second; and they were the first to document the long-term issues of cognitive health faced by retired NFL athletes. Athletic Trainers are leading, and will continue to lead, the way on this issue.
So at some time in the 31 days of March, take 1 minute out of a day to thank the person that protects you, or your friends, or your children while they are on the court or on the field doing what they love.
Thank you Anonymous!