Sprains, strains, pulls and tears.
These are four of the most common sports-related injuries and any one of them — or some even more serious — can strike an athlete at any time.
But should an injury hit, Greene County Schools now has an agreement in place to ensure its student athletes receive care the moment they are injured, along with ongoing treatment.
The schools system’s contract with PT Solutions, a private-practice physical therapy group which has clinics in eight states, officially took effect on Friday. Under the agreement, PT Solutions will place full-time, state-certified athletic trainers at several schools to support the athletic programs of those schools.
These services will come at no cost to the county, according to Michael Hemby, PT Solutions director of clinic operations.
Representatives with PT Solutions first presented their proposal to the Greene County Board of Education at the panel’s Jan. 28 meeting. The agreement would eventually be approved by the board at its Feb. 25 meeting.
“When we came into this area, (we) realized there was a huge void, that our schools in Atlanta and in North Carolina and in Chicago, they have athletic trainers onsite all the time, for all their practices, all their games,” Hemby said Thursday. “The schools here are lucky to get game coverage.”
Hemby said that by mid-April — just before the start of spring football — PT Solutions will place one full-time athletic trainer in each of the county system’s four high schools. By the start of the 2016-17 school year, full-time athletic trainers will also be stationed at both of the system’s middle schools, Hemby said.
Along with this, Hemby said the system will have access to what he referred to as a “PRN pool.” This is a group of other athletic trainers that, as needed, can be called upon to help cover sporting events if the full-time trainers are tied up.
“That way, if football and basketball season has an overlap, we can put another trainer in that school,” Hemby said.
Each of the athletic trainers represents an investment of around $50,000, meaning the six full-time trainers the school district is to receive represent an investment of around $300,000, Hemby said. He said this estimate does not include costs associated with the PRN pool.
“The first year, we’re looking at a probably $400,000 investment into Greene County public schools with that,” Hemby said.
PARTNERSHIP WITH TAKOMA, ADVENTIST HEALTH
Hemby said PT Solutions partners with hospital systems throughout the areas in which their clinics are located. One of the company’s largest partnership’s is with the Adventist Health System, which currently owns Takoma Regional Hospital.
In November, PT Solutions partnered with Takoma to do physical therapy work with the hospital, which no longer has an internal physical therapy unit. After this alliance was formed, representatives reached out to Greene County School officials and athletic trainers across the system to discuss the possibility of stationing athletic trainers at some of the schools.
“It’s a community benefit piece, and since we’re partnering with Takoma, the community benefit is a way that we can kind of even out the costs there,” Hemby said.
Hemby said this partnership with Takoma allows PT Solutions to offer its services to the county at no cost. The partnership, he said, allows PT Solutions’ trainers to create a “fast track,” meaning students injured do not have to wait to schedule appointments.
“We can get them into any urgent care, any (emergency room), any physical therapy within 24 hours,” he said.
The athletic trainers, who will be employed by PT Solutions and not the school system, will work sort of a “second shift,” Hemby said. They will arrive at the schools about an hour before practice starts and will not leave until after those needing their services have been seen. The trainers will be on the sidelines or in the gymnasiums during games, and will travel with teams come playoff and tournament time.
If a student is injured, a trainer’s day will begin a little earlier, Hemby said.
“So if a kid gets injured on Thursday, Friday morning the athletic trainer is then calling the parents to follow up, calling the physician to follow up, letting the coaches know what the status is, helping with any educational accommodations,” Hemby said. “If it’s a concussion, the athletic trainer will be working with the school to make sure there’s proper accommodations for post-concussion treatment.”
The schools’ athletic trainers will also be available to conduct injury screenings of teachers and students not participating in school athletic programs.
“Honestly, we see almost as many injuries in band sometimes as we do in some of the other sports,” Hemby said.
“We see so many injuries later in life of individuals that are 30, 40, 50 years old that didn’t get the proper treatment as a student athlete, and now they’re suffering down the road,” Hemby said.
Hemby said PT Solutions will bring other programs and initiatives such as concussion testing and pre-athletic screenings.
Additionally, a program will be launched to allow high school students interested in sports medicine to “shadow” the athletic trainers, learning how to address and assess injuries, Hemby said.
Greene County Schools has previously provided each of its schools with an annual stipend of $5,000 to be spent on athletic training equipment, such as tape and braces, and to call in a trainer on an as-needed basis. Hemby said PT Solutions has asked that these schools keep this money for each to put into its own sports medicine program.
Injuries to Greene County Schools’ student athletes will also be tracked, Hemby said, so that prevention programs for more prevalent injuries can be implemented.
Hemby said PT Solutions is in the process of hiring trainers to fill these positions.
Greene County Schools officials said they are excited about having PT Solutions onboard. George Frye, assistant director of operations, referred to the agreement as “awesome.”
“This is the greatest thing to happen for Greene County athletics in a long time,” Frye said.
Frye, a former coach himself, added an informal meeting will be held this week with the school system’s coaches and athletic directors to discuss implementation timelines and expectations. He said having quick access to professionals who can quickly assess and treat sports injuries will be “invaluable” for Greene County Schools.
“Having the trainers on the sidelines allows the coaches to coach and the trainers to do what they do best,” he said.