When it comes to the athletic field, winning is fun, but safety is critical. In honor of National Athletic Training Month, an athletic trainer at Baylor College of Medicine discusses the importance of having an athletic trainer on the field and what important questions athletes and parents should be asking about safety.

“As athletic trainers, our entire specialty is centered around appropriate sports medicine care on the field, from pre-injury all the way through post-injury,” said Meghan McKay, athletic trainer with Baylor.

She notes that athletic trainers are valuable on the field and can help with return-to-play decisions as well as on-field concussion assessments and injury evaluation and treatment.

“For example, if someone rolls their ankle, we can help determine whether they can go back and play and, if not, it is in our scope of practice to tape ankles, which if done inappropriately can put someone at risk for increased injury,” she said.

Athletic trainers also can educate athletes about proper warm-ups and cool downs for pre and post-game practices or events, McKay said.

“There are many different aspects of injury prevention that we can bring in. As athletic trainers, we are not just watching the game. We are watching the biomechanics of the athlete. We watch the sport in a way in which we can see those injuries happening,” she said.

“Athletic trainers offer a broad skill set that encompasses everything from ensuring athlete safety to understanding sports equipment to diagnosing, treating, rehabbing injuries, and working as first responders for on field emergencies,” said Dr. Theodore Shybut, assistant professor of orthopedic surgery and sports medicine specialist at Baylor. “In addition, our athletic trainers have become an integral part of our clinical sports medicine practice—they participate during athletes’ office visits, provide essential patient education and facilitate communication with coaches and other training staff.”

McKay suggests that athletes and parents of athletes ask the following questions of any athletic team:

  • Is there medical care?
  • Who is taking care of the health and safety of the athlete?
  • Who is CPR and First Aid certified?
  • Do they have access to First Aid supplies?
  • When is the medical care available? Home games, away games and practices?
  • What is the emergency action plan?