Did you know March is National Athletic Training Month? In recognition of Seattle Children’s incredible athletic trainers, we’re highlighting the tremendous role they play in helping athletes thrive on and off the field.
Across the greater Puget Sound region, nearly 50 athletic trainers from Seattle Children’s are embedded in 42 schools from Tacoma to Woodinville. They are with athletes at least five days a week – on the sidelines at games when most injuries occur, as well as in the gym or training facilities during practice. They provide sport-specific training and conditioning programs, as well as injury care for high school athletes. Athletic trainers help care for athletes from a wide array of sports, including football, soccer, lacrosse, gymnastics, wrestling, basketball, baseball, softball, track and field, tennis, golf, swimming, volleyball, cross country and roller derby. From helping tape ankles to suggesting specific exercises to decrease the risk of injury to communicating with orthopedic providers when catastrophic injuries occur, athletic trainers help support young athletes.
“We are the eyes, hands and ears of the care team and a liaison between the providers and patient,” said Seth Wayne, a Seattle Children’s athletic trainer at Evergreen High School.
Wayne comes from a family of accomplished athletes. He knew from an early age that he wanted to go into health care to help people. When he found athletic training, it all clicked into place. He found his career path.
“I broke my arm playing soccer, and I really liked the nurses who cared for me,” Wayne said. “When I found athletic training, I knew I had found my calling. I wanted to learn the healer’s art. Combining sports and medicine was the best of both worlds for me.”
Seattle Children’s athletic trainers are licensed and certified. Unlike personal trainers, certified athletic trainers have passed a secure national board exam after receiving a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. Most of Seattle Children’s athletic trainers have a master’s-level education.
Athletic trainers are part of sports medicine at Seattle Children’s, which is consistently ranked among the top pediatric orthopedic programs in the country.
Erin Krauth was an athletic trainer at Roosevelt High School before she took over as manager for Seattle Children’s program. She says the role athletic trainers play goes above sports.
“The impact we provide is huge,” Krauth said. “Our athletic trainers are there every day. They get to know the kids, parents and administration. They become a member of the school’s community and are very invested in the culture of the school. They are creating touchpoints for the community.”
Exceptional care and equity access
Krauth says her vision for the program is rooted in providing exceptional care and thinking about equity and access to health care for athletes.
“We reach a larger number of students who don’t have access to clinics and medical care,” Krauth says. “We see a lot of athletes who have parents who don’t speak English, and it can be challenging for kids to seek medical attention. It’s rewarding to know they have access to us. We work in a lot of low-income schools in the area. It feels good to know we’re making a difference in those populations for athletes who wouldn’t have medical access otherwise.”
Dr. Burt Yaszay, chief of Orthopedics and Sports Medicine at Seattle Children’s, says the program is unique.
“We really appreciate the relationships we have with most local high schools,” Yaszay said. “Our athletic trainers are very active in the community, and they allow us to manage athletes who need our care. We are able to treat the most complex orthopedic issues, but we can also care for the most routine. There isn’t a diagnosis we are not comfortable with.”
Krauth says about 70% of the injuries athletic trainers treat are minor, but when a child has a serious injury on the field, Seattle Children’s athletic trainers can facilitate and help manage the complex care the athlete will need in order to return to play.
“Nothing is more rewarding than seeing an athlete return to their sport after an injury,” Wayne said.
When an injury happens, Wayne is able to quickly communicate with emergency medicine physicians. When a child is seen by providers at Seattle Children’s, he’s in contact with them in order to help devise a plan for continued care. Together, they work as a team to devise approaches for physical therapy among other things.
“When an athlete suffers an injury and needs to go to Seattle Children’s, I know they are going to get quality care and get the health care they need. Having the hospital there to back us up feels nice. I’m part of the care team. I know I’m going to get communicated with, and together, we’ll help get the patient back on the field as soon and safely as possible.”
Athletic trainers are often unsung heroes of the sidelines. They care deeply for their athletes and the communities they serve, but many people may not fully understand the work they do. From assembling medical kits to working with athletes as they progress through rehabilitation, athletic trainers are a vital component of sports and medical care.
Unfortunately, only around 40% of schools have access to athletic trainers. Seattle Children’s has worked hard to help make sure athletes in and around the Puget Sound region have access to the care they need.
Wayne says this month, in recognition of Athletic Training Month, parents should ask their school administration if their school has access to athletic trainers.
“If your school doesn’t, advocate for one,” he says. “We’re here to help. As athletic trainers, we can fill in all the holes if your child gets hurt and get them back to the sport they love.”
This month, if you see an athletic trainer, thank them for all they do for the community, and if the profession interests you, talk to an athletic trainer.
“To have an athlete look at us and think to themselves, ‘I could work in health care one day,’ it’s really special,” Krauth said.