Athletic trainers keeping athletes healthy at county schools


What started out as an experiment in Jackson County’s high schools has now become essential to the wellness and success of the athletic programs.

In 2013, Seymour and Brownstown Central high schools came to an agreement with Schneck Medical Center that if the schools met some guidelines, the Seymour hospital would provide full-time certified athletic training at no cost.

Knowing the potential benefits of having a trained health care professional on campus every day to help treat and educate athletes, the schools didn’t hesitate to start the service.

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Kyle Coates was hired that first year to work at Seymour and has been with the school since.

“Our plan was to kind of get set in Jackson County with our two largest schools,” Coates said. Schneck had never employed athletic trainers and definitely not in a high school setting. That first year or two, we wanted to see how our orthopedic referrals went. Around that same time, we hired the athletic trainers, and they expanded the orthopedics and sports medicine group in the hospital by hiring two more orthopedic surgeons.”

It didn’t take long for Seymour and Brownstown Central to realize the benefits of having a trainer on staff. The other schools took notice.

In 2015, Schneck hired an athletic trainer to split time between Crothersville, Medora and Trinity Lutheran. That same year, Schneck also partnered with Jennings County and Scottsburg high schools.

The expansion didn’t stop then, as Salem High School was added in 2018.

There are offices in all three of the communities outside Jackson County that orthopedists from Schneck visit once per week to meet with patients, Coates said.

For the 2019-20 school year, the Schneck athletic training team has grown to six.

In Jackson County, Coates is at Seymour, Devin Harvey is in his fourth year at Brownstown Central and now also goes to Medora and Kim Noon takes care of Trinity Lutheran and Crothersville.

Outside of attending the home games, Harvey and Noon visit Medora and Crothersville once per week each.

Melanie Anderson is the athletic trainer at Jennings County, Christopher Davis is at Scottsburg and Mallory Myers works at Salem.

By having a direct connection to Schneck, trainers can often get athletes into doctor’s offices faster, Coates said.

Doctors and trainers also can relay information back and forth with physicians and therapists to get athletes back on the field or court sooner.

If a team is on the road and there is a lingering injury, the trainers will communicate with trainers from opposing schools prior to a contest, Coates said.

Coates is now in charge of the group of trainers, serving as the care supervisor of athletic trainers.

The road to becoming an athletic trainer isn’t easy. After graduating from an accredited university, trainers need a national certification from the board of certification and a state license from the Indiana licensing board.

In 2019, the standards changed for incoming students interested in athletic training, as The Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education mandated that by 2022, all athletic training education must be done at the graduate level.

After getting all of their certificates, trainers are required to fulfill 50 hours of continuing education every two years.

“I think there’s a growing need, not just here but everywhere, for athletic trainers,” Coates said. “It’s a growing field. The knowledge of sports injuries, the way we treat them and recognize injuries and go into concussion management has changed. It is more on the forefront of wanting their kids to be evaluated quickly, treated and then someone guiding them to return to play.”

In a 2015 survey by the National Athletic Trainers Association, 70% of schools in the country had athletic training services, while 37% had full-time athletic trainers. That same study showed 80% of schools in Indiana had athletic training services.

On top of attending all home practices and games, schools that have football require a trainer at every away game.

If there aren’t any home games, the trainers will often go on the road with the teams anyway.

This past fall, Brownstown’s volleyball team played 38 matches en route to winning a state title.

Since Harvey has been at BCHS for four years, he has established rapport with the students and coaches.

“Having an athletic trainer on the team to help during the long season really helped reduce injuries,” Harvey said. “It was a long season, and there were a few girls that pushed through injuries at some point in the season. Having Jennifer Shade as coach, she trusts me, and I trust her. If I say a player needs a couple days off, she’s all right with it.”

By spending time at the school every day, Harvey feels he’s able to better understand what works best for each athlete.

“You spend a lot of time with them throughout the year and get to know each of them personally,” Harvey said. “Each person responds differently to differently treatments. You learn what’s too much and can manage any type of injuries to minimize them.”

When more schools started employing athletic trainers, the larger schools were the first to fill the positions because of resources.

While far fewer students attend the schools she’s in charge of, Noon said most small schools now have their own athletic trainers.

“You see quite a few trainers at a lot of the smaller schools,” she said. “I think that is something we’re starting to see change as the years go by. You will see some schools that also don’t have a trainer, but for example, I could be at a home game for Trinity and not be at Crothersville.”

Noon, who is in her second year with Schneck, said some schools employ athletic trainers part time, but she believes it’s best for all parties when a full-time trainer is on staff.

“I think it’s important for the health of the student-athletes,” she said. “You want them to stay healthy and for them to do the right things. If you get to do the rehab, you can see them through the process.”

The trainers are also on hand during the postseason and in the offseason at the campuses.

During tournament time, if one of their schools is hosting a sectional, regional or semistate, the trainers are on hand for emergency management.

In the summertime, the athletic trainers have office hours and meet with athletes before and after practices.

With a brand-new rehab service facility at Schneck, sports medicine will continue to grow for the hospital.

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