How Athletic Trainers Have Prepared For Athletes To Return To School

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Athletes who are playing football game during COVID-19

Normally, schools would have started their fall semester in mid-August, with sports ramping up at the same time. This year has forced everyone to shift gears and come up with new strategies. In the athletics world, athletes have adapted by finding new ways to train, some mainstream athletes have been competing in esports, and even athletic trainers (ATs) found innovative ways of working at the beginning of the pandemic to help their athletes. 

While ATs can work in unconventional settings, we’ll be focusing on their more conventional and well-known role of supporting school sports teams. 

Here’s how ATs have prepared for athletes to return to school.

ATs Got A Crash Course This Summer

In the sports world, summer is pre-season for athletes and a time to train and workout in order to condition and master skills needed before the season begins. While the future of sports was uncertain, some schools moved forward with holding summer conditioning camps. At the schools that didn’t hold in-person summer conditioning camps, athletes took a different approach, by working out at home, in private gyms or even together outside while practicing social distancing. During this time, ATs were still available virtually.  

To safely bring their athletes back to train, ATs could turn to The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) action plan for reopening college sports. This document provides thorough guidelines for ATs to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and keep their players safe. Some of the guidelines in this document include physical distancing, wearing a mask, frequent hand-washing, and not touching your face.

For ATs, bringing back athletes to train this summer gave them first-hand experience with what the new “norm” looks like and they had to adapt quickly. To ensure athletes and everyone around them remained safe and healthy, they had to be extra vigilant about COVID-19 safety protocols. Their tasks included performing temperature checks, making sure athletes filled out screening questionnaires, sanitizing surfaces, and ensuring athletes were maintaining physical distance from other players. 

Precautions ATs Are Taking

As new information comes out about COVID-19, ATs are constantly learning and adapting. For example, they know certain individuals are more vulnerable than others, such as those with a Body Mass Index of 30 or more, those who have a chronic lung disease (e.g. asthma) and that asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic spread of the virus is common in young adults. ATs are also maintaining good communication with their athletes and educating them on symptoms they should self-monitor for.

ATs are using the information they do have and are making the best out of this unusual time. This means they are being diligent and paying attention to the small details every day and taking extra time to thoroughly sanitize equipment and screen their athletes. 

One way ATs can fast track the screening of their athletes 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 even 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. 

ATs have also been diligent about developing and adhering to protocols to ensure their athletes can safely return to sports. Such protocols include treating athletes (preferably in an outdoor area) while wearing a mask and gloves, implementing testing strategies (i.e. testing athletes 72 hours before they play a game), and taking the appropriate actions when an athlete does test positive for COVID-19.

What Sports Is Looking Like

Recently, schools have started to implement their protocols for when athletes test positive for COVID-19. Schools like Notre Dame have had to pause practice, after five football players tested positive for the virus. Other schools like the University of North Carolina had to temporarily suspend their athletic activities due to positive COVID-19 cases rising. 

We’ve also seen conference-wide decisions take place. The commissioner of the Big Ten recently released a statement that fall sports will be postponed and the matter will not be revisited. The PAC-12 also announced that they will be cancelling all fall sports and hope to resume in the winter or spring. 

Sports such as volleyball are facing logistical issues, including potentially having to share an arena with other sports like basketball while trying to maintain the safety of their players. Other sports like cross country running would have to deal with adjusting to extreme temperatures in the winter.

We know that this is a challenging time for everyone in sports, from ATs to athletes, but we also know that eventually sports will return. In any case, it’s important that we continue to prioritize health and safety, and we’re proud that ATs are handling this unprecedented time by putting their commitment to athletes’ wellbeing first!