Sports Medicine And Athletic Training: Living Our Values, Expanding Our Mission

Mike Riley, Jessica Matula, Aileen Goldstein

The Sports Medicine and Athletic Training program at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School (CESJDS) is designed to promote lifelong fitness and personal responsibility through education and hands-on experience.

Our program is grounded in our school’s core values of Torah lishmah (lifelong learning for the sake of learning) and Ve-ahavta lerei’akha (creation of a caring moral community). While our athletic program places great emphasis on the teaching and learning that is so valuable in athletic competition, our athletic training program emphasizes achrayut and areivut (individual and collective responsibility).


Our Sports Medicine and Athletic Training program began over 20 years ago as a response to student interest in the work of our newly hired athletic trainer (AT). The AT was hired to help manage the prevalence and risk of potential injuries during athletic events while providing support and care for our student athletes. Having an AT on staff enabled each of our coaches to focus more on instruction, tactics and drills for their specific sport and worry less about treating injuries at practice and contests. Seeing our AT in action, our students showed great interest in starting a sports medicine program to learn about becoming an AT. The inherent desire to learn led to the creation of our first Sports Medicine elective course for interested high school students, and ultimately to the introduction of a Sports Medicine II class which enables students to earn American Red Cross certification.


Together, these two courses provided many unintended benefits, expanding our athletic program in new ways. For the first time, students could become a part of the athletic program even though they may not play on a team. Further, students are able to put their knowledge learned in the classroom to use on the field and on the court by helping student-athletes. Not only do these courses provide our students unique opportunities to earn credit towards graduation, they also gain valuable knowledge and skills essential to sports medicine and a healthy living.


Components of the Sports Medicine Program

The sports medicine program at CESJDS consists of several components. Classroom instruction provided by our AT is at the program’s core. In class, students receive first aid instruction, learn methods to correctly tape athletes, treat wounds of various levels, and study basic anatomy. We bring in experts in the field to speak with our student athletic trainer aides (SATA) about proper techniques for hydration, nutrition, stretching, physical conditioning, and treating injuries. We also advise of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations as they pertain to athletic training. Students who finish our level 1 class and enter our second level class have the opportunity to become certified by the American Red Cross in first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and use of the automated external defibrillator (AED). In this course, students also learn about the Good Samaritan laws in our state. All of the students who finish the second level course have the skills to help in emergency situations as first responders.


Perhaps more distinctive is the on-the-job training element of the class. Each student is assigned an afterschool athletic activity for the season. The students gain practical experience in the medical field and offer assistance to all student athletes incorporating the domains of athletic training in regards to prevention, emergency care and record keeping. They learn that they are part of the team and practice responsibilities of professionals: they must be punctual, reliable and attentive during the practice session for their team. In this phase, students set up hydration stations for the team, prepare and restock medical kits that are used on the field, and become first responders if our AT is not available. Our students who have been with the program the longest and are most knowledgeable are assigned to sports that have the most chance for injury, such as wrestling or soccer. Students take their responsibilities seriously, and embody the high standards we expect of CESJDS students and, in particular, of those in the position to care for the health and wellbeing of their peers.


Impact of the Program

The impact of the program has been tremendous not only for our school, but to the community as a whole. Because of the training they have received, our students are capable of assisting in emergency situations that occur in and out of school. In one instance, several of our SATA helped with a student who had injured his head on the corner of a wall. Our SATA quickly recognized the emergency and helped the AT and student immediately. One SATA notified our athletic director, while another one stopped pedestrian traffic in the hallways as our AT took care of the student.


Five years ago, we implemented the Immediate Post Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT, baseline testing program. This program, developed by concussion experts at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, uses a computerized examination system to assist with diagnosis and management of head injuries and is used by many professional, collegiate and high school interscholastic programs across the country. Computerized neurocognitive tests such as ImPACT are fast becoming the standard in the field in recognizing and managing head injuries. Our ATC administers the 45 minute baseline testing for concussions. The test is set up in a “video game” format that tracks memory, reaction time, speed and concentration. The ImPACT test is not an intelligence test or a measure of an individual’s IQ. If a student has a head injury, we have a baseline for return to play. The tests help to determine if a student should be sent to a physician for further testing of concussion symptoms. It also is an aide for the safe return of a student back to the sport without causing further harm. This program provides parents with data before they take their child to a physician with concussion symptoms. A physician or clinician may recommend that the athlete retake the post injury ImPACT test following the injury. The ImPACT program has been very well received by our families, and eventually we plan to administer the test to all students who enter our upper school (grades 6-12).


Educational Benefits of the Program

Educationally, our students incur many benefits. In addition to the primary educational benefit of receiving hands on experience of working with and understanding the duties of an ATC, our sports medicine program provides a gateway to other experiences in the medical profession. Several of our former students decided to enter medical programs when they started college, as a result of their participation in this program. Many sports medicine students have become full-time emergency medical technicians and pursue degrees in that field.


Our athletes know their bodies better, recognize symptoms of injuries more readily and how to better train for specific sports. They recognize when something is wrong, and they understand that turning to a professional for help would be beneficial. The SATA are honored at our yearly sports banquets with the teams and take part in all team activities each season. Some of our former SATA have gone to college to become physical therapists, doctors and physician assistants, and completed internships with physicians and physical therapists having helped directly with patient rehabilitation protocols.


Elements of a Successful Program

A successful Athletic Training Program is contingent on the hiring of an AT. Our AT is board-certified and licensed through the board of physicians in our state. While potentially expensive, the AT is an invaluable resource to the school, even beyond her work in the athletic training program. Our athletic trainer has networked with many physicians in the area, as well as physical therapists and nutritionists. In our school, our AT serves a dual role, as AT and classroom teacher. She teaches health and physical education classes and anatomy and physiology classes. She has also served as a grade advisor for many different activities during the school year.


Our AT not only helps the students in our building, but she is a valuable resource for coaches and staff alike. Many times staff members seek out our AT for advice about injuries and proper treatment, and she has offered advice on how to heal and strengthen the injured area in order to return back to physical activity. Our staff considers this a great benefit, especially those who are athletically inclined. We have found that through our program we have created students who are no longer bystanders when an emergency happens. They begin to learn skills that help the community at large, which is in direct alignment with the school’s vision and mission.


Fitness facilities should include a dedicated athletic training room and a fitness facility. We have recently renovated our fitness center, which is adjacent to our athletic training room. The equipment we purchased for the center provides our AT with the tools required to rehabilitate our athletes. Our fitness center is open each day after school and is staffed by a coach each season. The fitness center further serves to prevent injuries by improving strength and flexibility of our athletes.


As with all programs, there is a cost involved for the school. In addition to the cost of hiring an AT, our school also pays the cost of her yearly certifications and her attendance at the national conference to obtain mandatory continuing education units. The ImPACT testing program costs us $600 each year for 300 baseline tests and 60 post-injury tests. We pay approximately $1,200 per year for medical supplies and equipment as needed.


The investments we have made in our certified athletic trainer and our sports medicine program are well worth the cost. They clearly demonstrate to our community that we are doing our very best to keep our athletes safe, train our athletes properly, and emphasize teaching and learning. 

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HaYidion Athletics Winter 2015
Winter 2015