Certified Athletic Trainers
Almost 7 million student-athletes participate in high school sports programs today with additional numbers in middle school and summer league programs. Certified Athletic Trainers (ATCs) are some of the most comprehensively prepared allied medical professionals, trained to deal with the injuries of these young athletes. Over 70% of ATCs have a master’s or a doctorate degree and must pass national certification exams in addition to their state licensure exams. These multi-skilled allied health professionals are strongly supported, academically and clinically by the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine.
ATCs handle emergency and non-emergency situations that arise from sport and physical activity. Injury prevention, assessment, management, treatment and rehabilitation are the five main areas in which Certified Athletic Trainers are uniquely trained. Risk Management and Injury Prevention training allows ATCs to develop and implement comprehensive emergency action plans. They also identify unsafe field or environmental conditions and monitor and provide the proper intervention for heat-related illnesses.
When an injury does occur, ATCs are there to provide “on the field” or “on the court” immediate assessments. Based on the information gained they can then provide the best and most efficient injury management protocol. These professionals then work with student-athletes on a daily basis to help maximize the healing potential. Many sports injuries require more aggressive and advanced rehabilitation. ATCs are prepared to design and implement comprehensive rehabilitation programs that are sports and/or position-specific and age-appropriate.
They are trained in the biomechanics of sport and design rehabilitation programs that include the functional activities needed to return to sport. They have to take into consideration not only the physical, but also the mental and emotional preparation of the injured athlete. A complete, safe and permanent return to competition after an injury has resolved, requires specialized physical reconditioning that can take place during the rehabilitation process. In addition to the above skills, they also address the nutritional concerns related to sport. They help identify athletes at risk for nutritional disorders, monitor body composition to reduce the risk of injury and reinforce appropriate weight management strategies.
"Certified athletic trainers are an integral part of our sports medicine team at Wake Forest Baptist Health,” says Heath Thornton, MD, Medical Director of the Athletic Training Outreach Program. “On the playing field or court, they act as our ‘eyes and ears,’ keeping athletes safe and healthy during practices, games, and beyond. They work “one on one” with athletes and patients on a daily basis helping them restore function and return to activity as quickly and safely as possible. ATCs are some of the most qualified medical professionals to respond to the needs of the student-athlete and physically active population.”
- Overseeing general care of student-athletes - Our athletic trainers are the healthcare professional who takes care of student-athletes even after the school nurse and other staff have left for the day. This is when the athletic trainer begins the daily routine of injury rehabilitation, injury evaluations, protective taping, practice preparation, monitoring environmental conditions such as heat and humidity, consulting with physicians, checking the status of weather conditions, conducting concussion follow-up and honoring return-to-play protocols.
- Coordinating care with teachers and other administrative staff - Research shows that schools with an athletic trainer have more diagnosed concussions. The athletic trainer's background prepares him or her to work day-to-day with the administration, school nurse, staff and parents to help students manage concussions. This includes prevention, on-the-field evaluation should injury occur, and the care, management and recovery protocols required to ensure the athlete recovers and then returns to play in the most effective and efficient manner.
This is vitally important because second-impact syndrome is an extremely dangerous condition that occurs in younger athletes when they have a concussion that doesn't properly heal and then have another concussive episode. This condition can lead to permanent disability and even death. The goal is "return to learn" first, meaning re-assimilation into the classroom environment. Once that is accomplished, the next step is to get the athlete to complete a return-to-play protocol and release him or her back into the sport of choice.
- Directing preventative care for a wide range of injuries - Injuries vary from sprains and strains to more severe, unusual injuries or conditions that require specialized training, recognition, management and treatment. If the school doesn't have an athletic trainer, the coach or athletic director may try to provide this medical care and decision-making. Coaches are hired to coach, prepare and condition their teams; and athletic directors are meant to oversee the department. They should not be expected to also handle medical aspects, and any type of substandard care could put the athlete's health and welfare at risk.
- Providing referrals and expediting medical care for injured athletes - Our athletic trainers have developed strong relationships with our sports physicians and specialists. Wake Forest Baptist Orthopaedic clinics offer same-day or next-day appointments for any injured student athlete. WFBH also offers a convenient after-hours walk-in clinic and Saturday clinic hours to meet the needs of a busy schedule. The ease of making an appointment allows for quicker treatment, rehabilitation and care, which in turn speeds the recovery process and putting coaches, parents and athletes at ease.
- Managing administrative responsibilities - The athletic trainer often becomes the gatekeeper of all medical forms used in an athletic program. This includes collecting medical forms, completing injury reports, completing daily injury and rehabilitation notes, collecting pre-participation physical exam paperwork, conducting baseline concussion testing, and securing medical releases. These are all critical tasks, with the goal of eliminating or decreasing potential liability of the school district should injury occur.
- Assisting in the development of an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) - Athletics administrators should have an EAP for every venue that their athletic teams use for practice and games. The athletic trainer is a valuable resource for a school district and athletic director in helping coordinate this plan, by offering not only knowledge of emergency response and planning, but an established rapport with local emergency responders, as well. The athletic trainer can also help develop response protocol in the event that a spectator, coach or student-athlete is injured as a result of an emergency situation.
We’re here for you when you need us - Wake Forest Baptist Health’s Athletic Training Outreach Program is part of the Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine at Wake Forest Baptist.
Our program serves children and teens of all ages and abilities.
Staying and getting back in the game - We pride ourselves on prevention and education. We teach coaches, parents and athletes ways to avoid injury and perform better and more safely throughout the season. In the event of an injury, our team works closely with the athlete, family and coaches to ensure a safe, yet swift recovery back to the field. Whether it’s ruling out a fracture or treating a sprain, our athletic trainers can help save athletes an unnecessary trip to the emergency room. We can also determine whether an athlete has a concussion and when they can safely return to play.
The largest, most experienced team in our region - Wake Forest Baptist Health’s Athletic Training Outreach Program offers the largest, most trusted team of pediatric-focused, North Carolina state Licensed Certified Athletic Trainers in the region. Our athletic trainers provide medical coverage at 27 local high schools watching over and caring for more than 15,000 student-athletes.
Our specialized team includes sports orthopaedic surgeons, pediatric orthopaedics, and physicians who are fellowship-trained in sports medicine. That means they have completed a nationally-recognized, highly-competitive program to become experts in sports medicine. Those physicians enjoy a seamless line of communication with the in-house physical therapy team, working with their patients on sports injury treatment programs, sports injury prevention and rehabilitation.
Our sports medicine team offers both surgical and nonsurgical treatments as needed, with services that include injury prevention, physical therapy, rehabilitation, imaging, complementary medical treatment. We are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of acute and chronic sports injuries, including strains and sprains, concussions, neck and back pain, shoulder and arm programs, hip and knee pain, torn knee ligaments, meniscal tears, shin splints and fractures.
We offer same-day or next-day appointments, a convenient walk-in after-hours orthopaedic clinic, and we are open Saturdays. We do not require a referral from a primary care physician.