COVID-19 protocol changes bring about increased need for athletic trainers in schools


(WTRF) – It’s that time of year again; hours in the heat, sometimes multiple practices a day, fall sports are here. 

While COVID-19 has brought on many more challenges for coaches and athletes, they can’t forget about one of the top safety concerns, which is hydration.

Per WVSSAC mandates, all athletes have to bring their own water, so no sharing if you forget yours at home. These changes have the West Virginia Athletic Trainers’ Association (WVATA) more concerned about proper hydration this season.

Regardless of the new rules, athletes still have to hydrate. The WVATA reminds that starts before practice, and continues after. 

According to their recent recommendations, athletes need eight to 10 oz. of water every 10 to 20 minutes. However, that can vary based on an athlete. Those who sweat more need to consume more. Also, if it’s hot, drink more.

With students responsible for their own water bottles, athletic trainers recommend parents not assume someone is there to refill their child’s water supply, and send their athletes to the field with a cooler of water and electrolyte drinks. 

That’s not just high school. The WVATA also encourages middle school and youth sports parents to keep their kids extra prepared.

Are they gonna have enough? Is it cold? Who’s in charge of assuring that there’s some mechanism for them to get more while they’re at practice? When they run out what are they doing for it? Are they stopping practice?

Dr. Zach Garrett, WVATA President

According to the WVATA, football is the only sport mandated to have a licensed athletic trainer or healthcare provider there during practice. 

So, if one of those athletes runs out of water there’s someone there to refill it within the COVID-19 guidelines.

They can have a, a container, so like a big cooler, but only one athlete can utilize it at a time, which is fine. The concern becomes some of those other sports and that access because they can’t provide this community container. They can’t provide this over site to the access of water.

Suzanne Konz, WVATA Secretary

However, there is a solution.

They can designate a coach, if they have somebody that wants to be a water boy, basically you put them in PPE, a mask, gloves, let them handle the filling of the water.

Dr. Zach Garrett, WVATA President

The WVATA also worries that some sports practice in areas that don’t have access to cool water, which helps with heat related illness.

It’s important to know the warning signs if someone doesn’t get enough water. Be on the lookout for nausea, loss of consciousness, dark colored urine, and skin that is either warm or clammy while sweating.

If a student does test positive for COVID-19 and has to be away from practice for a few weeks, how they phase back in, and staying hydrated while off the field is also key.

Now we have to pull these kids away from the field of play because they’re not allowed to realistically do anything, and if we just stick them out there on a night that it’s 90 degrees and 85 percent humidity we’re asking for problems.

Dr. Zach Garrett, WVATA President

With heat related illness, even seconds matter in cooling an athlete down. The WVATA says given the new restrictions, now is the time to make sure all schools have an athletic trainer. 

It should be a no-brainer that if you’re gonna have athletics that this is a mandatory piece

Suzanne Konz, WVATA Secretary

Just how many schools need an athletic trainer? The WVATA says only about 30 to 35 of the state’s high schools have a full time athletic trainer. Even then, they may be responsible for up to six sports in one season.

Last year a bill was introduced in West Virginia to require athletic trainers in all high schools, but it didn’t make it out of committee.

Kontz says it’s putting student athletes in jeopardy.

If neither one is present, practice or game should not happen, or it cannot happen, but in some cases we know that they do. That’s a sad and scary situation, the idea that athletes have to practice at their own jeopardy or their own peril because they don’t have healthcare coverage provided to them is not right.

Suzanne Konz, WVATA Secretary

The WVATA would like to see athletic trainers always present at every level, including youth sports. With some trainers repurposed to help with the COVID-19 pandemic, there could be a unique opportunity to make that happen.

We already have you know in the secondary schools, school nurses are hard to come by anyway. Having an athletic trainer could help with some of those things they’re going to be facing from a healthcare standpoint.

Dr. Zach Garrett, WVATA President

Until parents start demanding and expecting some of this, and even the athletes starting to push back, I think we’re going to be stuck in this continual gopher wheel of issues with athlete safety in the state of West Virginia.

Suzanne Konz, WVATA Secretary

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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