Summer is usually a time for us to clean our rooms, reorganize and prepare for fall to begin, but this summer has definitely been a different type of preparation. While there are still so many unanswered questions on how we will operate inside the school building, we continue to plan and evolve our approach on how we can safely evaluate and treat our athletes.
Pre-Season for Athletes
Normally, thirty minutes before practice kids start to filter into the athletic training room during the summer. They are sleepy, wearing ‘slides’ and carrying millions of bags with them prior to an 8am practice. Some come in just to say “morning,” as they wait for their friend to get an ankle taped, a blister taped, or maybe they are getting some heat and stretching out before practice. All summer workouts are geared towards conditioning and mastering skills before the real work begins in August pre-season. However, this summer put us in a halt with no telling if we would be getting back to preparing and treating our athletes. Then there was a light at the end of the tunnel as we finally started to hear the word that “yes,” we will be allowed to get back to our job. But there will be guidelines and protocols on how we will be able to resume athletics. As athletic trainers, we have now absolutely become the frontline for our sports teams in screening athletes prior to participating in practices.
Precautions We’re Taking
So, how are our preparations going into “pre-season” and the fall season going this year? Well to start with, there were many meetings, protocol writing and forms made to ensure that all athletes were able to safely participate and keep participating. Our first hurdle was screenings. To prepare, we made sure that we had contactless thermometers, an outdoor space that we could conduct the screenings and a way to receive and process the daily questionnaire forms. After we decided how we were going to accomplish this, we prepared to have athletes in small pods within the teams. They need to maintain social distancing at all times, wear masks when they are not doing activity, and bring their own water. We also made sure that we had enough cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, and masks in case an athletes/coaches mask were damaged.
Per guidelines, we are also restricted in the ability to utilize our athletic training room. This made us rethink how we were going to treat those injured athletes. While we have golf carts or gators to keep our supplies on, it is a challenge to evaluate the athletes on a golf cart. We believe that having an ‘outdoor’ athletic training room is our best option. We will be setting up a tent with a table, supplies, and ice. In this outdoor setting, we would still need to make sure kids are maintaining social distance, wearing their masks, and all athletic trainers will be wearing a mask and gloves, in order to be able to evaluate and treat an athlete. On a side note... for those athletic trainers out there, have you gone to make an ice bag and realize you can’t suck the air out of the bag with a mask on? I am not sure how many times I went to make an ice bag and realized I have a mask on, duh.
Addressing Summertime Concerns
Lastly, and our biggest concern yet, it’s SUMMER! That means not only do we need to follow the COVID-19 guidelines but also still need to monitor and follow the heat participation policy. My typical morning for practice is arriving at the school early and preparing the ice bath (for cold water immersion) in case of Exertional Heat Stroke. Next, is getting a few coolers filled with ice and a cooler of ice water, with a towel. One of the most exciting things during a hot summer practice for our athletes has always been the cooler of ice water and towel for a refreshing douse of ice water over their heads. Per guidelines, the sharing of coolers will not be allowed, so I will personally wring the towel over their heads, if someone needs a quick cool down. Next, I gather up all my equipment for the day; contactless thermometer, wet bulb for testing the heat and humidity, pulse oximeter, pens, extra covid questionnaires, mask, and don’t forget the coffee! I then head out to our screening site, where athletes will line up with their daily covid questionnaires, stay 6ft apart and wait to get their temperature checked. On my way down, I also stop to set up the Wet bulb so that when practices start I can start getting readings.
If you are an athlete, parents of an athlete, or coach, please bear with us and reach out to us with any questions. We are here to help, but we will be helping in a different capacity. While we may not be able to provide Athletic Training Services in the way we would like to, we will try our best to do what we can safely.
Jennifer Zepp is a Certified Athletic Trainer for Rothman Orthopaedics at Absegami High School. Click here to learn more about Rothman Orthopaedics Athletic Training Services.