JOHN DOHERTY: Athletic trainers March to make protection a priority

JOHN DOHERTY: Athletic trainers March to make protection a priority


INDIANAPOLIS — March is National Athletic Training Month and Indiana and Illinois will each host a major event this week to get the month started.

Today, the eighth annual Youth Sports Safety Summit will be held at NCAA Headquarters in Indy. Founded by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association in 2010, the Youth Sports Safety Alliance now includes 290 organizations nationwide, including Community Hospital, St. Catherine Hospital and St. Mary Medical Center locally.

Wednesday, the Great Lakes Athletic Trainers’ Association will open its 49th annual meeting and symposium, which will run through Saturday in Wheeling, Illinois.

The slogan for the month is “Your Protection Is Our Priority.” Toward that end, today’s program will include the NATA’s release of “New Inter-Association Task Force Guidelines on Emergency Health and Safety: Best Practice Recommendations for Youth Sports.”

According to an NATA press release, “There is no universal governance of youth sports. Given that national governing bodies function independently, implementing best practice health and safety policies at the youth sport level is a challenge.”

The new guidelines are the first of their kind and, the press release goes on, “specific to youth sports to serve as a road map for policy and procedure recommendations specific to emergency action plans, sudden cardiac arrest, exertional heat stroke and traumatic head and neck injury protocols at the youth sports level. (They also discuss) pre-existing medical conditions, environmental conditions and emergency medical care, such as the use of athletic training services.”

Following the release of the guidelines, keynote speaker Chris Herren, a former NBA player with the Celtics and Nuggets, will discuss his personal battle with substance abuse, which included opioid addiction.

On Friday in Wheeling, athletic trainers and other health professionals from across the midwest will hear how exercise is better medicine for chronic diseases than opioid pain relievers are.

Later that day, the keynote speaker for that conference will be neurosurgeon Julian Bailes, MD, who is the Chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery and Co-Director of the NorthShore Neurological Institute in Evanston. He was portrayed by Alec Baldwin in the 2015 movie "Concussion".

Also the national Medical Director for Pop Warner Football, Bailes is sure to address the drastic rule changes being proposed by that organization: smaller fields, fewer players plus elimination of kickoffs, punts and the three-point stance.

While no comprehensive sports medicine conference would be complete without addressing opioid abuse and concussions, the GLATA meeting attendees will also hear about emergency care, medical liability, shoulder injuries, nutrition, skin conditions, heat illness, hip injuries, rehabilitation for softball pitchers and treatment of upper back pain.

After four days of those courses, the athletic trainers who attended will be better equipped to help athletes, young and old, protect themselves from injury and re-injury.

Perhaps most important among that group of professionals are the high school athletic trainers. They typically function alone at their schools and are often the only healthcare providers with whom a high-school-age athlete has the chance to interact.

Next week, I'll discuss details of the new guidelines being released today.

For more information on National Athletic Training Month, go to

John Doherty is a licensed athletic trainer and physical therapist. This column reflects solely his opinion. Reach him at Follow him on Twitter @JDohertyATCPT.


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