Athletic Trainers: Fighting At The Forefront Of COVID-19 | Part 2

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A boxer preparing to fight in the ring

This year has been unpredictable and while we can’t foresee the future, we certainly know that everyone has had to pivot, be flexible and change during the pandemic. The world of sports is one such industry that’s been greatly affected, from mainstream athletes shifting gears and competing in esports to finding innovative COVID-19 testing methods to get athletes back in the game.  

Athletes and sports conferences aren’t the only ones in the sports industry who have had to adapt - athletic trainers (ATs) have also faced many hurdles, such as preparing for athletes to return to school. In the first part of this blog series, we looked at how ATs used their unique skills to help during the beginning of the pandemic.

In part two, we’ll explore how ATs have been assisting athletes over the past several months.

How ATs’ Adapted During The Pandemic

To refresh your memory, at the start of the pandemic, it seemed like the whole sports world was shut down. While ATs couldn’t see athletes in person, they remained available virtually. Some ATs took on entirely different roles and lent their support by providing medical assistance to hospitals (e.g. screening patients for symptoms of COVID-19). Others helped in non-traditional ways, like making respirator covers for healthcare workers.

Given that some sports have resumed, ATs have been working hard to keep their players safe, on and off the field. Luckily, one resource that ATs can turn to during this difficult time is the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) resource, Resocialization of Collegiate Sport: Developing Standards for Practice and Competition. This document provides thorough guidelines for ATs to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in an athletic setting. Some of the guidelines in this document include testing strategies, practicing and enforcing physical distancing, universal masking, and encouraging outdoor training when feasible. 

Staying Ahead Of The Curve

To stay ahead of the curve, ATs have used guidelines provided by the NCAA, along with guidelines developed by other sources, such as counties, health officials and coach associations. To create the best plan for their athletes, ATs use all of these guidelines to stay informed while ensuring it’s a collaborative effort, working with nurses, coaches, administrators and other sport medicine professionals to do so. 

Staying informed is not only essential for ATs, but also for athletes, to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and keep them safe. One innovative method of getting the information across to athletes is by creating a video, as one such AT, Breanna McLain who works at Fillmore High School, did. She understood that athletes may be anxious about coming back to campus and participating in group workouts. She created a video to explain the safety protocols  in place and to reassure athletes that they’ll be safe!   

How COVID-19 Has Changed How ATs Work

ATs are normally very hands-on with their athletes, however, because of the pandemic and how easily COVID-19 spreads, they no longer can be. They’ve had to adjust and see fewer athletes at a time, along with altering their evaluation and rehab methods. In addition to constant sanitization, ATs have to be aware of physical distancing and verify that everyone has enough space in places, such as training rooms, where athletes do workouts and rehab. 

Another aspect that has changed for ATs is keeping track of who has had COVID-19 and who may have been exposed to it. This takes up a majority of their time and has even taken away from other aspects of their job (i.e. treating a torn ACL). As Zac Womack, AT of East Carolina University put it, “[w]e are more COVID-19 managers now than athletic trainers.”

Since ATs are focusing more of their time on screening athletes for COVID-19 symptoms, one way they can fast track the screening process is by using an Athlete Electronic Health Record (EHR) that provides a COVID-19 Screening Template, like Presagia Sports. Not only does our secure, cloud-based EHR help ATs with athletes’ performance and recovery, they can now monitor an athlete’s exposure and symptoms according to NCAA best-practices. Schools can even record their COVID-19 tests with Presagia Sports’ Medical Test records.

As we all try to figure out where we stand in this new normal, we want to acknowledge and thank all of the amazing ATs out there who are doing their best to keep everyone, especially athletes, safe and healthy!