Sports Injury Access Like the Pros
by Adam Halpern, MA, ATC, CSCS
It’s the day before the big game and the orthopedic surgeon, team physician and a group of PA's arrive to test the athlete and decide if the athlete should play in the game.
Most people say “yeah, and….”. Contrary to public thought, I say “why doesn’t the public have this same type of access?” Why do athletes only get this treatment? Others might say, “movie stars, entertainers and politicians get the same red carpet treatment.” I say again, “why can’t the public have access to such services?!”
The answer might surprise most. It’s simple, there isn’t a system set up for Sally the soccer mom, Joe the football dad, Phil the weekend warrior or Jill the casual runner to get such treatment. There’s not a system to gain access for simple to complex questions regarding their muscle and joint injury. The current process is confusing, expensive and time consuming. This process is called the healthcare system.
What if everyday athletes had access to a trusted, sports injury expert who can help provide insight into the severity of the injury while eliminating costs and unnecessary time trying to get answers in the current healthcare system?
To shed light on a gloomy subject, I’ll bring hope for your next sprain/strain that might keep you out of the weekend 5K. There is a solution that exists in organized sports and it starts with an athletic trainer. Athletic trainers (AT) are allied health care professionals who are nationally certified, state licensed and hold standing orders from physicians.
https://www.nata.org/about/athletic-training. Some of you might be familiar with your AT from high school sports, college playing days or watching sports and listening to ESPN anchors discuss the athletic trainers who are waved on to the field to evaluate and manage the injury of the fallen athlete. To highlight the value of athletic training, a recent study by Dr Li, an Oregon economist, found that Oregon high schools with an athletic trainer saved Medicaid $4M over 4 years with an average $1M per year. Research Study
I’ve been an athletic trainer for 20yrs and worked at top institutions like Stanford University and the US Ski Team. Athletic training is the best kept secret in healthcare. My team is focused on changing the access for millions of recreational and amateur athletes to revolutionize the management of muscle and joint injuries in this country.
HBO recently aired the story on youth sports and the rising trend among sport specialization and injuries. There are 60M youth athletes and 3.5M annual sports injuries that contribute to the overall $216M in musculoskeletal healthcare costs. Some of the injuries require the appropriate orthopedic and rehabilitation services but a lot of them could have been seen by the appropriate healthcare professionals (including athletic trainers) to provide insight and guidance into the proper management of the injury.
In addition to the rise in youth sports injuries, there’s been a behavior change by athletes and their parents in regards to using the healthcare system. Increased urgency and higher patient demands for imaging (x-ray and MRI's) is putting a major strain on the healthcare system. One cause of this upward trend stems from professional sports and the availability of advanced care services. This is one talking point that contradicts the article title, not every injury needs an image like the pros. Most injuries can be properly evaluated by an AT to gain insight into the severity of the injury while eliminating costs and unnecessary time tying to get answers in the current healthcare system. Just because pro athletes get an image doesn’t mean you need the same thing for a simple ankle sprain before the weekend soccer scrimmage.
However, the opposite is true with adult athletes. Adults reinvent themselves as athletes by trying to stay active longer with identity opportunities such as CrossFit and Obstacle-Course Races. Age plays a factor in injury occurrence and weekend warriors tend to ignore injuries for a long time until the injury manifests into a larger problem as they try to push through it to avoid the pain points of the healthcare system. Incorporating the proper prevention and clinical decision making in the early phases of an injury can save unnecessary time and costs.
Athletic trainers provide a remedy with point-of-care services and navigation through the healthcare system which includes appropriate rest and physical therapy. When advanced care is necessary, personal relationships with providers allows the AT to act as an advocate for the injured athlete to improve patient outcomes, decrease the cost of the injury and save time for the athlete.
This sounds like a great system right?! I ask again, “why doesn’t the public have this same type of access?”