Parker County has had a great deal of success across the board in competitive sports, raking in championships and titles regardless of the size of the school.
Many student athletes participate in multiple sports or play in private leagues year round in order to maintain a competitive edge in their sport of choice.
To keep the athletes healthy and safe, Parker County schools enlist the skills of athletic trainers.
The athletic trainers work to provide students with not just the ability to recover from injuries within a safe time frame but the skills and tools to prevent injuries from occurring.
“We want to get them back as fast as possible but also as safely as possible,” Weatherford ISD co-head athletic trainer Stephanie Nelson said.
Athletic trainers place an emphasis on the risks of constant competition and repetitive motion.
“A big thing is we would love to see our athletes taking a break especially a year round athlete who is only doing one sport,” Nelson explained.
High profile sports such as football often see increased media attention when injuries occur.
“They don’t tackle every day just one day a week,” Brock ISD athletic trainer Samantha Burton said proudly. “They’re making them come in to do maintenance and preventative care.”
Though football is painted as a high injury sport, other sports such as soccer, baseball and softball see overwork and joint injury on a significant level.
Football and soccer are high risk for knee injuries while baseball and softball are shoulders and elbows.
UIL regulations control the amount of practice time and game time students are allowed to participate in, but many of the more competitive high school athletes county wide compete year round through private leagues and select teams.
“We do understand that some of the athletes get their scholarship from an outside team,” Nelson said.
Many of the student athletes who commit to colleges start early into a particular sport, such as soccer, playing for years on end without a break.
“Once your body gets fatigued your risk for ACL dramatically increases,” Nelson explain. “You really want to see those kids do something different, give yourself a break for two to six weeks.”
Weatherford College took on their first athletic trainer six years ago.
Chris Nelson took the opportunity to build the program for the local college level competitors from the ground up.
“Tearing your ACL is an epidemic,” Nelson said.
Athletes are suffering ACL tears as young as nine and 10 years old.
With proper training preventative measures the risk of injury can be lowered significantly.
“Prevention is one of the most important domains of our job,” Nelson said.
The athletic training program at Weatherford College reviews the injuries after every season and adjust both the off season training and the warm ups to protect the athletes in the coming year.
For younger athletes, parental involvement can make all the difference.
“The parents come to me and ask ‘what do we have to do to for them to get better?’” Little said about Aledo parents supporting their athletes. “They want to make sure that they’re in the loop so that they can make sure their child is doing what they need to do at home.”
The process of keeping athletes in competitive shape entails a wide range of care.
“Anyone that wants to be taped as far as ankle taping, we will tape them no prior injury needed,” athletic trainer Lindsey Schafer said. “We just started implementing a foam roller program.”
Public school trainers work with coaches, doctors, athletes and parents to protect the student athlete.
“People think you’re just dealing with injuries but your not you’re dealing with the mental aspect of it, the emotional aspect of it,” Burton said.
With time away from a sport and full body conditioning, many of the common injuries such as ligament tears and pulled muscles can be adverted.
With the competitive edge filtering down into younger ages, understanding how to train and prepare for a particular sport can be the key to long term success.
Parents are advised to be hands on early on in placing prevention in the forefront.