Local fans may have noticed extra stickers on the back of Scotus Central Catholic and David City Aquinas helmets on Friday night.
Both teams were participating in Safety in Football campaign organized by the Nebraska State Athletic Trainers Association. Columbus Community Hospital, in conjunction with local teams, entered into the campaign to promote the importance of athletic trainers and help Nebraska football teams stay safe on and off the field.
The effort takes place Aug. 23-31 on social media and at various games, putting the spotlight on local athletic trainers through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Photos of the trainers in action and stories about their work to keep athletes safe and healthy have been shared across all three platforms.
On the high school team level, small helmet stickers were affixed to the back of helmets to represent the partnership between participating schools and NSATA to improve safety in youth football across Nebraska.
“We’re pretty fortunate here in Columbus that every high school has an athletic trainer,” said Andrew Sheridan, an athletic trainer with Premier Physical Therapy assigned to Scotus. “Most schools in Lincoln or Omaha do as well, but a lot of the smaller schools around don’t have access to an athletic trainer due to funding at the school, a lack of a local hospital willing to help out or the location of these little towns especially out in Western Nebraska. The awareness is about showing schools how important it is to have an athletic trainer. Studies show trainers can decrease the risk of injury and improve the diagnosis of injury.”
The program began in Oklahoma and has since grown across the country. In Nebraska, 20 schools are participating during the first two weeks of the season.
Although athletic trainers often only receive attention during an injury on the field, the benefit of having trained professionals around to manage the overall health of the team collectively, and return injured players to full health individually, is the true value of trainers on a day-to-day basis, according to Sheridan.
“Concussions are popular. It’s in the news and it’s what everyone wants to talk about. But what they don’t always see is what goes on every day – going in and making sure you have everything ready for practices in terms of hydration or any taping or bracing that goes on for minor injuries,” Sheridan said. “People don’t see the behind the scenes work like how trainers take care of players with injuries ensuring those that can still play are properly protected.”
Athletic trainers are primarily in place to prevent catastrophic injures. However, equally as important and likely more regular is the work they do to educate coaches and players on proper techniques and form as well as setting up strengthening and recovery programs in season and off season to prevent minor injuries.
Sheridan started in the Columbus area in late May. Although the sports season was winding down when he arrived, it's back and full swing and he's typically working on athletes morning and evenings.
"It's very demanding, but it's also extremely rewarding to see those kids you've been working with get back on the field, participate and succeed," he said.
Nate Tenopir is the Sports Editor for the Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.