(RxWiki News) In sports, first there's the athlete. Then the coach. And finally, the athletic trainer?
Where there are athletic trainers, there are lower rates of injury overall in high schools, a new study presented at a conference has found.
This study's findings mean athletic trainers can show the proper way to exercise and treat an injury.
"If you hit your head, get checked for a concussion."
These qualified health pros help prevent, diagnose and treat injuries and illnesses among athletes across the country.
But only 50 percent of high schools across the US actually have an athletic trainer (AT).
Researchers, led by Cynthia LaBella, MD, FAAP, associate professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University and medical director at the Institute for Sports Medicine, looked at the number of sports injuries among female high school soccer and basketball players.
They aimed to see how having an athletic trainer affects schools' injury rates and patterns between the fall of 2006 and spring of 2009.
The researchers gathered information through a national survey that included athletic trainers and a Chicago-area survey without trainers.
Among schools without an AT, researchers found injury rates were almost doubled in soccer and 1.22 times in basketball compared to schools with an athletic trainer.
Injury patterns were similar between those schools with trainers and those without.
At the same time, concussion rates were more than eight times higher among soccer players and four and a half times higher among basketball players in schools with these trainers.
"Athletic trainers have a skill set that is very valuable, especially now when there is such a focus on concussions and related treatment and care," Dr. LaBella said in a press release.
"Concussed athletes are more likely to be identified in schools with athletic trainers and thus more likely to receive proper treatment."
They also found the rate injuries recurred were almost three times higher among basketball players and almost six times higher in soccer within schools without trainers.
"Athletic trainers facilitate treatment of injuries and monitor recovery so that athletes are not returned to play prematurely," Dr. LaBella said.
"This likely explains the lower rates of recurrent injuries in schools with athletic trainers."
Dan Clearfield, DO, a primary care sports medicine physician and dailyRx Contributing Expert, said that while this study only focused on two particular sports, the need for an AT can be applied to all sports and athletes.
"The detection and management of concussions is now being approached as a team approach, involving the athletes, parents, coaches, athletic trainers, teachers and school administrators, as well as the medical team," he said.
"The athletic trainer has a central focus of creating awareness of this injury, recognizing and diagnosing when they occur, and ensuring the proper management is employed to have a safe return to play."
Funding info for the study was not available.
The study was presented October 22 at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans.