PreventionSecondary SchoolSpine Injured Athlete

Utah Athletic Trainers keep athletes safe


PreventionSecondary SchoolSpine Injured Athlete

Utah Athletic Trainers keep athletes safe

Local health care practitioners work together to help student athletes

If you are a parent sitting in the stands at a high school football game, just seeing your son lying on the field is enough to send your heart into your throat.

That worry could quickly become panic if you see the athletic trainers and medical personnel carefully removing your son’s helmet and shoulder pads.

Hopefully that situation never arises but if it does, you should know that the athletic trainers, doctors, EMTs and other medical personnel specifically practice that technique before the season started.

And they did it to give that injured athlete the best possible care.

“One of the big things we practiced has to do with the new mindset on what to do about suspected spinal-injured athletes with gear, which mostly relates to football,” Springville athletic trainer Lisa Walker said. “In the past, we’d remove the face mask, put them on a spine board and get them off to the hospital.

“The new guideline is that — when appropriate, if you have enough trained personnel — you can choose to remove the helmet and shoulder pads. That saves time in the emergency room and gives access to the chest in the event of a cardiac issue for ambulance staff and at the hospital. You have to have enough people — it’s called the 8-man maneuver — who are trained, who have the tools and the knowledge. You’re typically waiting for an ambulance so that can have the athlete better prepared for when they get to the hospital.”

Many of the Utah Valley high school athletic trainers joined doctors, nurse practitioners and other medical representatives at an August meeting where the technique was practiced — just days after BYU trainers used the same approach when Cougar linebacker Colby Jorgensen fractured his neck.

“We had already planned to have that meeting,” Walker said. “Then BYU had the incident the very week before the training. BYU had just barely prepared for it when the best practices came out. They practiced it and it went off like clockwork.”

She emphasized that the purpose of this type of training is to make sure that trainers and other medical experts at high school events are just as prepared.

“That’s where we need to be,” Walker said. “We pool our resources to make it happen. It was why we were there but maybe it was taken a little more seriously because of that (the Jorgensen injury). But all of them had already made the commitment.”

The August meeting is one of three that will be organized every year — one before each season — to help all of the trainers and others that they work with in the medical profession make sure they are on the same page.

“What we are trying to do is help support the high school athletic trainers wherever we can,” said Dr. Karl Weenig of Revere Health, who hosted the workshop. “We want to support the care of the athletes by getting info out on what current processes are.”

Weenig said there will always be a focus on the four Hs: Head, heat, heart and history but this was also an opportunity to help everyone be prepared in the event of emergencies.

“We need to be prepared to act quickly and efficiently to help whatever athlete has the problem,” Walker said. “The trainers are at different schools and are all hoping our teams win, but our main focus is the health and safety of those who are playing,”

Both Walker and Weenig said collaboration and sharing experiences allows everyone to learn from what others have been through and increases the preparation level — as well as the trust between trainers and medical personnel.

“Trainers are assisting each in small ways almost every day,” Walker said. “I can’t be everywhere. I might have to be at a home soccer match while the JV football team is somewhere else, so have to depend on that trainer to take care of my athletes. If I am confident that person will handle things like I would, that gives a level of comfort and confidence.”