When you're watching a football game, certain members of the team may be in the spotlight more than others: the quarterback, the running back — or even the coach. In reality, we know that all players are critical to a team's success.
But there are two members of the team that might go unnoticed on the sidelines, despite the importance of their roles. The athletic trainer and team physician are key contributors in making sure the athletes on the field are playing at their maximum ability.
"It takes a team to make sure everyone is safe and performing at their best," says Jeff Baggett, Director of Sports Medicine Development and Community Engagement at Children's Health℠ Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine. "Having someone there with the education, training and expertise to care for our young athletes is so important to their success."
What's the role of an athletic trainer and a team physician and why are they important?
Per NATA , athletic training encompasses the prevention, examination, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of emergency, acute or chronic injuries and medical conditions. While athletic trainers can be employed in many different settings, in schools they manage the day-to-day athletic operations and are specially trained to care for athletes.
"An athletic trainer will create the optimal set of circumstances for each athlete individually," Baggett says. "They can identify where a player has any issues or weaknesses that may lead to further injury, and treat the athlete holistically knowing the unique stressors of each sport."
Athletic trainers can also serve as resources to parents and the community. They help parents with questions about nutrition, injury prevention strategies, how much sleep their athletes should be getting, how to recover after workouts and more.
A team physician is a doctor, often an orthopedist, who dedicates their time to be present on the sidelines for competition and who also makes themselves available to the team for other issues. They can be there to assist in parent education and may set aside specific treatment time for players. Team physicians have a close working relationship with the athletic trainer.
"An athletic trainer and team physician are constantly in communication with each other," Baggett explains. "The better the communication between the athletic training staff and a physician, the more cohesive the care, and the better outcome players will have."
Having this support team available to young athletes as they prepare for competition as well as during games can minimize risk of serious injury and expedite treatment when necessary. If a significant injury occurs, athletic trainers and team physicians have clearly defined roles outlined in an emergency action plan. With their close knowledge of a player's health, they will be able to work together quickly to give the best possible outcome for any type of injury, whether a sprain, fracture or a concussion.
If your child is an athlete, learn how the Children's Health Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine can help keep them strong and safe, with a full spectrum of services from orthopedic surgery and fracture care to rehabilitation and injury prevention, training and nutrition.
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