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What Does an Athletic Trainer Do?

Guest Bio: Sara Barr, MS, AT
Sara Barr is an athletic trainer with more than 20 years of experience. She attended Carthage College in Kenosha, WI and graduated from the Athletic Training Program in 2000. Sara went on to complete her Masters in Kinesiology at Illinois State University and has worked in various aspects of athletic training since. From the collegiate setting to high school, physician practices and management, she has been able to help many athletes and patients through injuries and truly enjoys helping individuals get back to their activities. Sara’s special interest in concussion identification and management and has helped start the Riverside Concussion Institute. Sara lives in Beecher, IL with her husband and two daughters.



    What Does an Athletic Trainer Do?
    Sara Barr explains what an athletic trainer does and how they benefit student-athletes.
    Transcription:

    Sean O’Connor (Host):  Hello, I’m Sean O’Connor one of the marketing communications representatives here at Riverside Healthcare. And I’m joined today with Sara Barr who is our Head Athletic Trainer with Riverside Orthopedic Specialists. So, we’re here to discuss athletic training and how it pertains to the general population but also athletes in our area and even anyone who might be listening today. So, I think first and foremost, what is an athletic trainer?

    Sara Barr (Guest):  Well first of all, thank you for having me. I’m so very excited. Athletic training is brand new at Riverside. So, it’s good to have this opportunity to kind of educate and answer questions. So, as an athletic trainer, by definition, we are Allied Health Professionals that specialize in the treatment of athletes and the athletic population. Now athletic training has evolved quite a bit. We are found in industrial settings, such as warehouses. We are found in physical therapy clinics to kind of help out with assisting physical therapists in exercise programs and such for patients. You can find us in physician offices as well now. We help with patient care and assisting physicians. You’ll even find us in the operating rooms sometimes. Some athletic trainers do get specialty certifications to be able to assist with surgical procedures. Orthopedics is typically what our background is. And that’s typically the setting the you’ll find us in.

    But athletic trainers can range from quite a few different job backgrounds.

    Host:  So, what brought you into the world of athletic training?

    Sara:  As a former athlete myself, it was always something that kind of kept me on the sidelines. Obviously, at a certain point in your life, you can’t necessarily participate in the way that you started out, but it was a way that I was able to continue to be involved. I do enjoy sports. I’ve always liked watching, I’ve liked participating. I do have two girls myself that are athletes so again it was a way that I was able to stay on the sidelines. I always liked medicine and science and anatomy, physiology, those types of things as well. I do have my Masters in kinesiology so the movement of the body and such so it was a way to combine all the things that I liked. It wasn’t the full medical school. I didn’t think I could be in school for a billion years.

    Host:  And all that debt that goes with it.

    Sara:  And all the debt that goes with it. Exactly. But again, it was a way to combine a lot of the things that I loved. The science of it, the medical side of it as well as staying involved with athletics and being involved with the athletes.

    Host:  Excellent. So, what sport did you play?

    Sara:  I played volleyball. So, I was a volleyball player all through high school. I played in college. And I actually just got back in it a couple of week ago, a little sore still. Got one of those I have to be my own patient and keep myself healthy.

    Host:  Self-diagnosis beyond Web MD. Excellent so, correct me if I’m wrong. Athletic training in schools is a fairly new profession or at least a fairly expanded profession compared to what you would see in the last ten years. I know from my days in high school, we didn’t have an athletic trainer, we had a coach who said put some ice on it and walk it off.

    Sara:  Right. So, athletic training actually it’s been around for 140 years. I di have to do a little research on that myself. I’ve been in the profession myself for 20 years and again it was something that I had looked for particular schools to get involved with. I think in the last ten years; there is a prevalence of athletic trainers being involved and available. I can kind of attribute that probably to social media just because there are a lot of things, a lot of kids that are specializing maybe a little bit too early, people getting injured a little bit, probably sooner than they were before. People staying in athletics longer again, just kind of picking up the sport again myself. Our athletic population is kind of going into the older years and I think again, just the change in healthcare that’s probably why it’s been a little bit more prevalent for the last decade or so.

    However, again, since 1881 and like I said, I did my research, 1881 was the first documentation of an athletic trainer and it was actually at Harvard University for the track and field team. And it did evolve from training and conditioning of that team to a more medical side. We actually did become an Allied Health Profession in 1991 and we were recognized by the American Medical Association as such. And we do have our own billing codes and such through the CPT. Those are codes that we are able to bill for in medical practices as well. So, it is evolving. Education is evolving. The athletic training tract started from just as a secondary like you said a coach or a teacher or a PE teacher that wrapped an ankle or threw an ice bag on it became accredited programs that you had to actually test into.

    Our certification test is something that we every athletic trainer has to go through and pass the certification test. Every certification then follows with the licensure by the state. So we are licensed by each individual state as well. We can to continue with continuing education units. We do have to obtain those obviously in the realm of athletic training and such. And they are actually changing athletic training as we speak to become a graduate tract. So you will not be able to get out of school as an athletic trainer without your master’s. Seventy percent of athletic trainers do have their master’s degrees already but now they are making it so that’s the actual program that you will graduate with.

    Host:  So, it truly is a specialized…

    Sara:  Absolutely and again, it did start with training and conditioning and it became more medical and I think again being recognized by some of those more prestigious organizations did make it a profession where now it’s 100% medical and we do have the knowledge and the know how and the training to be able to diagnose, prevent, recognize and help in the rehabilitation of those injuries and other conditions.

    Host:  So, tell me about Riverside’s athletic training program.

    Sara:  Again, we’re brand new. I’m very excited about this prospect because I believe in this area it is something that the hospital can offer a lot through their sports medicine physicians, through athletic training to our area high schools, colleges, club teams again, even just the athletic population. So, we are growing. We are working with some of our area high schools to provide that athletic training service for them. We are working with our physicians, both our orthopedic physicians as well as our neuro physicians even primary care just to bring awareness to the benefit that athletic trainers do provide for that population, that orthopedic, that athletic population. I know there’s a lot of things in the works that we are hopefully kind of going to start bringing about in regards to training conditioning hopefully with our fitness center and other sort of programs that we are able to offer to again, the community, the athletes and that through our sports medicine program.

    Host:  So, it sounds more like a complete holistic program whereas other programs you would see your PT over here and you may have an athletic trainer at the school, whereas Riverside has kind of brought everything together under one roof to kind of completely make everything available and all communication seamless throughout the entire process.

    Sara:  And that’s what I think we bring to the community. We bring the whole picture, a complete continuum of care. We can see somebody pediatric to geriatric. We can see them all through the complete treatment process with our physical therapy again, if it’s something that evolves into a different type of diagnosis, we can definitely get them to another one of our specialists. But I do believe that’s what Riverside offers that as you said, some companies are not able to and we provide the complete continuum of care for them.

    Host:  So, we’re kind of transitioning out of the fall sports season. As we move into winter sports; what are some adjustments to your approach during games or practices and what adjustments can athletes make?

    Sara:  We are in the Midwest. We never know what our weather is going to be.

    Host:  Throughout the day, it’s always just a roll of the dice.

    Sara:  If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes. So, I think when you are looking at training and especially with outdoor sports again, we are transitioning to more of our indoor sports when you are looking at high school. However, there are people that run all through the year. There are athletics that are only able to be done outside and such. So, making sure that first of all, you are monitoring that weather. Make sure that you are dressed appropriately. Make sure that you are doing your activities and doing your training at an appropriate time of day. Obviously again, monitor those conditions. Sometimes it does get icy out there. Make sure that you have the correct footwear. Make sure that somebody knows where you are going to be so that if there is an issue or a problem; that somebody can find you. I do recommend that again, now everybody’s got their music on their phones and such. Make sure that you have that locate my phone, again, in case there is any issues if you are out there training by yourself or running.

    Do make sure that you stay hydrated. I know a lot of times when I’m dealing with athletes when they are cold, they don’t feel thirsty, they don’t think that they are sweating. They don’t feel that they are as – it’s a different type of training than if you are training in the heat. So, make sure you stay hydrated again, that’s something hydration and nutrition is going to be key throughout the year, but I think when it gets cold a lot of people don’t necessarily think that dehydration is going to be an issue. However, it is. So, keeping up with your training. It’s not a time to take off.

    Make sure that you are monitoring that weather. Make sure that you are training in a safe location. Make sure that people know where you are at. Make sure that you are continuing with a good nutritional balance. Make sure you are staying hydrated and I think those transitions from outside to inside hot to cold; I think that will stay easy for you.

    Host:  What are probably the most common injuries or maybe not injuries but concerns that you see from athletes?

    Sara:  I think the biggest thing that I would say is just make sure you maintain your fundamentals. So, training correctly. If you are in the weight room four or five times a week and you’re doing it wrong; it’s not giving you any benefit. So, I think making sure that you are not putting yourself in a position where you are going to have an overuse injury because you are doing it incorrectly. Fundamentals I think all around the board is going to be something that you should maintain throughout. Whether it’s preseason, in-season, off-season training; make sure that you are again, maintaining the function. The function is going to be the big thing. That will help prevent some injuries. Obviously, there’s catastrophic injuries that we can’t help, and it keeps me employed. Nothing you can do about that. But it definitely is something where if you are maintaining your training and you’re doing it in the right way; you are going to be able to prevent some of those overuse injuries that they can definitely be season-ending if they are not taken care of and treated appropriately.

    Host:  Something that kind of dovetails off of that catastrophic injury is Riverside has a new concussion institute. What does that entail?

    Sara:  So, our concussion institute we’re trying to run the complete continuum of care. Anybody that suffers a mild or traumatic brain injury is able to come to Riverside and obtain the highest level of care throughout their entire process from the evaluation whether it’s from one of our athletic trainers on the sidelines or in the emergency room to the actual diagnosis by one of our physicians in our neuroscience institute through the therapy, our rehabilitation services do have a platform which is able to help with vestibular rehabilitation and then the return to play through our physicians and our athletic trainers to get that athlete back out to the field in a safe way. Athlete or not athlete. I mean again, a concussion can happen anywhere. You slip on the ice or unfortunately car accidents something like that. Skiing anything like that. So, again, we are here to help completely take that person, take that patient through that unfortunate process and help them and make sure that we are here to answer all the questions that they have about that.

    Host:  Excellent and like any good podcast, I think I’ll probably leave it as a cliff hanger because we will have to have you in to discuss concussion and concussion prevention and the healing. So, we’ll always leave it to be continued and so I want to thank you for coming out today. Fantastic job. Keep up the great work. It’s been great milestones for just not only Riverside but also the area when it comes to athletic training.

    Sara:  Absolutely. Thank you, Sean.

    Host:  Thank you.