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Published in Print: October 16, 2013, as Hospital Partnership Provides Trainers for School Sports

Hospital Partnership Provides Trainers for School Sports

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Steve Souder thought he was saying goodbye forever to athletic training when he stepped down from that responsibility in 2007 to devote his time solely to teaching physical education at Taylorsville Elementary School.

But because of a new agreement between the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp., in Columbus, Ind., and Columbus Regional Health, Mr. Souder has given up his teaching job to return to taping ankles and icing shoulders full time at Columbus North High School.

The two entities' three-year contract, which took effect in July, will dispatch four athletic trainers to schools in the 11,300-student district. The arrangement resulted partly from increasing concern nationwide about concussions, said Bill Jensen, the district's assistant superintendent of secondary education.

Previously, the hospital partnered with the school system and with Southern Indiana Orthopedics of Columbus to provide a trainer at North High School, but the district used its own funds to pay for a trainer at East High School.

The cost for four trainers would have been close to $40,000 this year, according to the district.

Heading Off Injuries

The National Athletic Trainers' Association reports that only 42 percent of high schools have access to licensed athletic trainers.

High school athletes suffer about 2 million injuries each year, according to the Dallas-based Youth Sports Safety Alliance.

Sports are second only to motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of concussions among people ages 15 to 24, according to The American Journal of Sports Medicine.

The contract between the Bartholomew School Corp. and Columbus Regional makes the hospital the school system's exclusive provider of sports medicine and athletic services. The program has benefits for the school district, athletes, taxpayers, and the hospital, officials say.

It puts two full-time athletic trainers apiece into Columbus North and East high schools at the hospital's expense, doubling the number of trainers that the schools had previously. The contract also provides services to Central and Northside middle schools.

Student athletes work with trainers to reduce risks of injury and to treat injuries such as concussions, ankle sprains, and shoulder dislocations during sporting events. The trainers can also concentrate more on prevention and education, they said.

Columbus Regional gets an inside track on referrals when athletes need more extensive medical attention or rehabilitation at the hospital, said Linda DeClue, the school district's assistant superintendent for human resources.

The athletic trainers attend games throughout the school year for all high school sports. For varsity football games, the hospital puts an ambulance on standby in case an athlete is badly injured.

The school system's partnership with the hospital mirrors other such partnerships around the state, as well as similar arrangements between districts and health centers in Kansas, Michigan, Montana, Ohio, and other states.

Mr. Souder said he goes to North High School at about 2 p.m. each weekday to prepare for student athletes who need to get their ankles taped or have some other preliminary treatment before taking to the football field, the baseball diamond, or the basketball court.

Splitting Responsibilities

Mr. Souder and the other trainers visit the middle schools once a week, but then often work on those students at other times during the week when they stop by the high school, he said.

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For the past seven years, trainer Kathleen Gratz had split her time at East High School between teaching physical education/health and training athletes. She said that left her only enough time in her training duties to cover some school sports.

Ms. Gratz used to attend all football games, all volleyball games, and varsity-only soccer games, for example, but now having twice the athletic trainers at East enables them also to cover school sports such as golf, baseball, softball, spring track, and tennis, she said.

Splitting responsibilities between two trainers at the school also gives them a better opportunity to educate athletes about nutrition, stretching muscles, and properly lifting weights, the trainers said.

And, students who come to trainers with those kinds of questions typically have suffered injuries or have noticed that a body part is getting sore and might become injured.

Vol. 33, Issue 08, Page 9

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