Article reposted from The Moulton Advertiser
Author: J.R. Tidwell
Britney Bates graduated from Mortimer Jordan High School in 2002 before going to school to work in a field related to sports rehabilitation.
“I have been an athletic trainer for 10 years,” she said. “I started off going to undergraduate school at the University of Southern Miss.
“I worked in Texas for two years. Then I worked at UAB and Children’s Hospital and also for Lemak Sports Medicine for a total of eight years in Birmingham.
“I just completed my first year here in Lawrence County. I cover Lawrence County High and R.A. Hubbard.”
Bates is one of two athletic trainers employed by Encore to cover the student-athletes at our local schools.
“After high school I went to Southern Union to play softball,” she said. “I tore up my shoulder and had to have surgery. I ended up interning for the doctor that did my surgery in Auburn.
“That’s what skyrocketed me towards sports medicine. I knew that I wasn’t going back to softball. Working in sports medicine was something I enjoyed, and I could still be around athletics.
“When I finished there I went to Southern Miss. I finished there in 2006. I spent some time in Physician’s Assistant school in Chicago and determined that wasn’t the route for me.”
Bates ended up working two different times for UAB and for two years at Texas A&M under Dennis Franchione.
Bates shot up the ranks at Lemak and ended up in more of a corporate position. One that she did not like.
“At Lemak I was over 50 schools and about 45 trainers,” she said. “As much as I loved working with those people, it wasn’t the setting I feel like I thrive in.
“I like going to schools and interacting with the kids and coaches. When I was working in an office I lost those kind of relationships.”
So Bates essentially decided to demote herself and return to working with athletes directly.
“I came out of a corporation where I had recently been promoted out of the field into a downtown office,” she said. “I realized very quickly that I missed being in the field. I was also familiar with north Alabama because my brother played baseball at UNA and I went to church camp in Russellville as a child.
“I had always wanted to work for Encore. I knew a lot about the company’s history, and when I was working for Lemak I learned a lot about different companies.
“I saw that Encore had some openings in this area. I went to an interview, and Lawrence County seemed to be the best fit for me.
“I really liked the coaches and administrators I met, and the clinic was really nice.
“The community feel around here was obvious from the start. Everyone around truly cares about the kids at these schools, and I like to be able to help kids.”
Bates spent the last year covering all sports and athletes for Lawrence County High and R.A. Hubbard as well as Hatton and East Lawrence when necessary.
She now works for Encore as part of a program that seeks to benefit high schools and their student-athletes.
“Encore is ultimately a rehab facility,” she said. “There is a branch that is sports medicine, and that part of the company is where you get trainers for your schools. We are a part of that sports medicine team.
“If Encore covers your school they provide a trainer for you and perhaps another school depending on size and number of athletes. The agreement is that Encore would like to provide coverage for your school as a community service.
“Without programs like this most schools, especially in Alabama, could not afford a trainer. Without the service Encore provides most schools wouldn’t have trainers, and trainers are hard to come by.
“If an athlete gets injured there is no set in stone agreement that they have to work with us. If one of the students I cover gets injured I prefer to be a part of the entire recovery process.
“The only way I can do that is if I’m there for the initial injury then get them set up with a physician. If there is a need for therapy I can follow through with that if they use Encore’s services.
“It makes everything easier when everyone is on the same page. That’s what sets Encore apart; they formulate a program for each step so nothing slips through the cracks.”
The particulars of Bates’ job, like Lester’s go far beyond the ordinary things that anyone can see.
“Game situations are different from your day to day,” Bates said. “The most important thing for games is an emergency action plan. We practice that at the beginning of the season, and I run through it with all the coaches for sports I cover.
“We make sure everyone has their certifications up to date. The coaches at LCHS just went through a new cardiac certification put out by the AHSAA.
“These certifications include things like concussion management and sportsmanship. I’m fortunate that all my coaches stay on top of these certifications. Within two days of the new certification coming out all of my coaches had completed it.
“Part of my job at the games is to help take care of any emergency situation. Catastrophic injuries are at the forefront of what my real job is.
“It’s easy to think athletic trainers only tape ankles or provide exercises, but the bulk of our training is in dealing with emergencies.
“Part of our protocol includes the activation of emergency medical services, but we are definitely the first responder. We are the first medical personnel on scene.”
Having a trainer be able to work so closely with a relatively small number of students creates a better situation than fewer people covering more.
“Knowing the team is essential to providing good care,” Bates said. “You have to know which athletes have pre-existing medical conditions. It’s important to know which athletes are on which medications and anything we should stay on alert for.
“I keep of list of any asthmatics or diabetics we have. I have worked with coaches who had heart conditions.
“You always want to plan ahead and prepare for the worst. Being ready for any emergency at any time is the biggest part of my job, along with knowing how to respond to those emergencies.”
During her time working with athletes at Lawrence County High some students began to ask Bates about her job, both what she does and what education is necessary.
She ended up having so many kids inquire that a group of student athletic trainers was formed at LCHS under her guidance.
However, these students were quick to learn that trainers did much more than just fetch water or nap in vehicles in between games.
“They have really gotten a feel for what we do on a daily basis,” Bates said. “It’s new to me. Several students asked me about my job and how to become an athletic trainer.
“Ultimately several students asked, and I decided to put a program together where students could get involved and learn about the field.
“At LCHS I began interacting with the kids. We started with four kids working at basketball games last year and transitioned into baseball and softball.
“Having those four students generated a lot more interest, and at the start of spring football training we had 14 students join the program.”
Bates taught the students about basic injury and wound care, hydration management as well as exercises and stretching techniques.
“Not all of the kids will stick with it, but some of them will,” she said. “I have four student athletic trainers who want to go to school to work in this profession.”
Whether its Lester, Bates or anyone else along the way helping student-athletes come back from injures is a worthwhile and necessary function that benefits the kids, coaches, parents and everyone involved.