As much as we all would like to live in a perfect world where every team, school, and club carried or hired an Athletic Therapist, we haven't reached that point and unfortunately never will. After participating in the #sportssafety chat this past week, it came to my attention that no matter how hard we try to have ATs at all levels of sport it seems that there are obstacles that will never be removed. So what do we do? We need to work on educating the coaches on injury prevention, recognition and basic management.
When working with a team or not one of the roles an AT takes on is educating coaches on the above topics. Injury prevention must be something that all participants buy into. The coaching staff are the ones that run practices, make tactical plans for competitions and are the overall guardian of what goes on with the athletes. Coaches need to learn about topics such as proper warm up, nutrition, hydration, rest and equipment as they can be a major influence if not the key influence as to athlete safety.
When it comes to injury recognition and management, by no means do I think coaches should know the difference between the laxity of a grade 1 sprain vs a grade 2 nor should they learn how to place players on spine boards. What coaches do need to know though are basic first aid, CPR and have an understanding of basic injuries. ATs need to share some of their knowledge with coaches. Coaches do need to understand the difference between sprains and strains and understand the severity of each. This knowledge will help them become a better coach, as they will understand why their athletes are out of sport while injured. Everyone involved in sport should have first aid and CPR, so they can deal with emergent situations and have basic splinting skills. Where ATs come into the education role is to help coaches take that first aid knowledge and apply it to sport.
We know that at some point in their coaching career a coach will have to deal with an injured athlete, by educating them as to how to prevent injuries, we can help them decrease the number they will see. By expanding their skill set when it comes to injury recognition and management, they will feel more comfortable when an injury does occur. Athletic Therapists have a wide knowledge base, and by no means should coaches be expected to have the same one. What we as ATs need to do is help the coaches expand their knowledge base, take the fear and uncertainty away when it comes to injuries. Give coaches the ability to handle an injury until the athlete can receive more advanced care and ensure that the injury is not made worse. If we as ATs work to empower coaches then coaches will learn that we are an integral part of the sporting community.
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