By Dani Palmer
The Herald Bulletin
PENDLETON, Ind. — Ask Pendleton Heights Athletic Director and football coach John Broughton who he’d rather have at his side during a football game, and he’ll tell you an athletic trainer, not an assistant coach.
Actually, when he first began coaching football in 1976, Broughton gave up his assistant coach in exchange for a trainer because he didn’t “want to be on the field without one.”
Sure it’s nice to have someone who knows defense, but it’s better to have someone who understands sports-related injuries, he explained.
While South Madison Community School Corp. middle and high school athletes have always had a trainer during the school year, beginning July 1 they’ll have one year-round. The school board voted to use Indiana University Health for trainer services.
Broughton said his number one concern is concussion prevention. But during the summer months, there’s also a threat of heat exhaustion.
He tells his players to drink lots of water before they come to practice so they won’t be “behind the eight ball,” and he gives them water breaks during practice. But having a trainer there, who’ll have last say when it comes to the players’ well-being, will be extra assurance.
That’s comforting, Dena Johnson said.
Her son, Andrew, is a lineman for the Arabians, and she worries most about him taking hard hits. But Johnson grew up in a football family and is familiar with the risks. She’s familiar, as well, with the tough mentality some of the boys have.
“A lot of young players could have a sprained ankle and just keep going,” she said.
Without a trainer examining them, she said, a minor injury could turn into something major and force them to the sideline for months.
Times have changed, Broughton said, as more steps, like concussion impact testing, are being taken to ensure the safety of student-athletes.
Rick Thomas played football when he was younger, and now his son, Dylan, plays for Pendleton Heights High School. Thomas noted that today’s players have better equipment, such as helmets designed to prevent concussions.
And while he’s glad an athletic trainer will be with the team year-round, he’s not overly concerned about sports injuries.
“Injuries are a part of the game,” he said, adding that the severity and frequency of injuries are often exaggerated.
According to the National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study, out of 100 schools surveyed nationwide, 3,759 injuries were reported over the 2011-12 school year.
Using the number of exposures, or the amount of times athletes were exposed to the potential of injury while participating in practices or competitions, along with the number of actual injuries, the study estimated there were 1.4 million sports-related injuries nationwide in 2011-12.
There were 7.7 million student-athletes in the United States that year.
Of those injuries, the majority, or 42.2 percent, were sprains or strains, while 22.2 percent were concussions.
In addition to a trainer, Broughton said, IU Health will provide other resources, such as a doctor at football and basketball games, at no additional cost to South Madison Community Schools.
Those doctors, who have treated Indianapolis Colts football players and other pro athletes, will give coaches an idea of what decision to make when it comes to deciding whether to take an injured player out of a game, he said.
The physicians, from Saxony, will also come to campus once a week to check on the progress of injury recovery, and athletes will have access to the performance center in Carmel for rehabilitation.
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