Iowa athletic trainers help improve student-athletes' health and safety
UI Sports Medicine partners with schools to manage the risk of injury, give parents peace of mind.
Introducing kids to competitive sports in middle or high school comes with a lot of benefits. It can be a great way for them to make friends, work on team-building skills, and develop long-term exercise habits. It can also become a springboard to future careers.
But many parents worry about their children's injury risk while participating in sports—from concussions to torn ligaments to heat stroke.
That’s why many schools and youth sport organizations in Eastern Iowa have begun partnering with University of Iowa Sports Medicine Outreach. This program, headed by UI Sports Medicine care coordinator Matthew Doyle, MS, LAT, ATC, provides area schools with athletic training services, emergency care, and physician coverage as needed. The goal is to help keep young athletes healthy and safe while providing expertise and reassurance to parents and families.
Professional care every step of the way
UI Sports Medicine athletic trainers were especially important to Annie Gavin and her son, Danny, during a playoff baseball game. Sixteen-year-old Danny was playing centerfield for Iowa City Regina High School when a pop fly ball sailed into the outfield. Danny planted his feet to catch the ball, but at the same time, one of his teammates was also running for the ball. The two players collided, causing Danny’s knee to twist and snap.
"Johnnie James, the UI Sports Medicine athletic trainer who works with Regina, was able to answer questions, give advice on what to do that night, and got us an appointment to see a doctor right away the next morning," Annie Gavin says. "We were so thankful that Johnnie was available to help us."
Danny was able to see a doctor the next morning at UI Sports Medicine. There, it was confirmed that he had torn his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and strained his medial collateral ligament (MCL). After wearing a brace for five weeks, Danny underwent a successful ACL reconstruction surgery with UI orthopedic surgeon Robert Westermann, MD. This was followed by 10 months of rehabilitation and physical therapy.
"Danny had very minimal issues in recovery. He worked his butt off with the athletic training team to get back for the next baseball season, and by the following May he was good to go," Annie says. "Whenever he was feeling sore, swollen, or worried about overuse, the UI Sports Medicine team would step in with advice, advocate for him to coaches, and work with him to be comfortable and safe."
These days, Danny is doing great. Thanks to the care he received from the staff at UI Sports Medicine, Danny was still able to pursue his goals of playing baseball at the next level and has officially committed to playing baseball at Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota after he graduates this spring. Annie and her family couldn't be more grateful for the dedicated help they received through UI Sports Medicine athletic trainers and their partnership with Regina High.
"I would recommend UI athletic training services to anyone. They go above and beyond to make sure all athletes' needs are met. Anytime we have questions or concerns, they’re there to ease our minds, give advice, or point us in the right direction," Annie says. "I believe all schools should have an athletic trainer to help keep the athletes safe and provide immediate care. Johnnie was available when we needed him and was with us at every step of Danny's injury. We are very grateful to him and all the staff at UI Sports Medicine."
Expanding athletic training opportunities
While college and professional-level sports always employ the use of athletic trainers, the need to expand these services at the youth level is becoming clearer. Doyle notes, however, that not every school currently has the funds to implement these services.
“Many schools do not budget for athletic training services, but the care they provide to student-athletes really makes them essential to any athletics department,” Doyle says. “Each school has sporting events, but not everyone has athletic trainers. It’s like building a pool but not hiring a lifeguard.”
Doyle encourages parents to advocate for these services to be added to their school’s budget to help their children get the most benefit out of their activities.
Extending services beyond elite athletes and high school sports
While the UI Sports Medicine Outreach program is currently focused on supporting elite and high school athletes, Doyle hopes that as the program evolves, so will its ability to expand services to more youth and recreational programs in the area.
“As the program grows over time, we’ll look to add to our staff and continue to increase the number of partnerships and relationships so we're able to provide services to greater numbers of people,” Doyle says. “We look forward to continuing to provide a vital service to the community because there's a need.”
If you’re interested in partnering with UI Sports Medicine Outreach or learning more about our athletic trainers and the services they provide, please contact Matt Doyle at 319-467-8255 or [email protected].