Attend any high school sporting event and it’s easy to spot the athletic trainers on the sidelines. They are first to spring into action when a player is injured, asking questions, helping players move and evaluating.
Certified athletic trainers hold the keys to decision making about whether an athlete may return to play or must head to the locker room for further evaluation. If a concussion is suspected, athletic trainers make the call. They work hard to keep injuries from sidelining players.
While their title suggests athletic trainers help athletes develop strength and conditioning or skill building for a particular sport, behind the scenes they do much more. At their core, athletic trainers are allied health professionals who specialize in sports medicine.
“Athletic strength and conditioning is not the only tool in our toolbox,” said Jared Hanson, head athletic trainer at Liberty Hospital Sports Medicine. “There is a greater purpose for what we do. We are medical practitioners who work to safeguard the athletes’ health and safety at all times.”
Athletic trainers must complete at minimum a four-year college degree program plus obtain national certification and licensure. During practices, matches and games they evaluate both acute and chronic injuries, offer treatment, recommend rehabilitation and develop plans to get athletes back on the field as soon as possible and reduce the chance of injury reoccurrence.
Liberty Hospital Sports Medicine trainers, including Hanson, typically work with one single school, which allows them to build relationships with coaches, administrators, physicians, athletes and their families. They manage medical care for all types of school sanctioned sports teams including tennis, wrestling, baseball, basketball, football, softball, cross-country, track and field and more.
When a serious injury occurs, having a trained professional on site who specializes in sports injuries and can immediately evaluate the situation makes a huge difference. Also being familiar with the program and knowing the athlete and staff from daily interaction allows them to better manage the complexities of some injuries. If needed, athletic trainers can recommend emergency care or further evaluation by a physician.
Liberty Hospital Sports Medicine provides seamless access to specialists at MU Orthopaedics at Liberty Hospital for complex injuries as well as primary care physicians with sports medicine training who are certified in concussion management at The Liberty Clinic.
“We become familiar with students, families and coaching staff, which puts us in a position to better assess injuries,” Hanson saids. “Most parents appreciate having a health professional at their fingertips, and athletic training services are provided by the school districts, which means our care is free to students.”
Many athletic programs have come to view the function of an athletic trainer as essential, Hanson said.
“We work with athletic programs of all sizes,” he said.
Access to athletic trainers has become increasingly prevalent in Northland school districts. In fact, Liberty Hospital Sports Medicine provides on-site athletic trainers for several local school districts. Hanson leads a team of 19 trainers who provide services to high school athletes at Liberty North, Lawson, Lathrop, Orrick and West Platte in addition to college athletes at William Jewell College. Recently North Kansas City, Park Hill, Platte County and Excelsior Springs high schools and middle schools contracted with them to provide athletic training services during the 2020-21 school year. In addition to athletic trainers, Liberty Hospital Sports Medicine also offers physical therapy, occupational therapy, sports performance training and adult fitness classes.