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Partnership doubles numbers of schools' athletic trainers


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Steve Souder thought he was saying goodbye forever to athletic training when he stepped down from that responsibility in 2007 to devote his time solely to teaching physical education at Taylorsville Elementary School.

But because of a new agreement between the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. and Columbus Regional Health, Souder has given up his teaching job to return to taping ankles, icing shoulders and dressing wounds full time at Columbus North High School.

The two entities’ three-year contract, which took effect in July, resulted partly from increasing concern nationwide about concussions, said Bill Jensen, the district’s assistant superintendent of secondary education.

Although the effects of concussions, a traumatic brain injury, are usually temporary, symptoms can include problems with headaches, concentration, memory, judgment, balance and coordination, according to mayoclinic.com.

Sports are second only to motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of concussions among people ages 15 to 24, according to The American Journal of Sports Medicine.

The contract between the school system and Columbus Regional makes the hospital the school system’s exclusive provider of sports medicine and athletic services. The arrangement has benefits for the school district, athletes, taxpayers and the hospital.

It puts two full-time athletic trainers apiece into Columbus North and East high schools at the hospital’s expense, doubling the number of trainers that the schools had previously, officials said. The contract also provides services to Central and Northside middle schools.

Sue Woolsey, the hospital’s director of rehabilitation services, declined to say how much the arrangement will cost the hospital but said the majority of the cost is the trainers’ salaries.

Student athletes work with trainers to reduce risks of injury and to treat injuries such as concussions, ankle sprains and shoulder dislocations during sporting events. The athletes also benefit because having extra trainers means they are attending more athletic events than previously, and the trainers can concentrate more on prevention and education, said school officials and the athletic trainers.

Columbus Regional gets an inside track on referrals when athletes need more extensive medical attention or rehabilitation at the hospital, said Linda DeClue, the school district’s assistant superintendent for human resources.

The athletic trainers attend games throughout the school year for all high school sports, Woosley said. For varsity football games, the hospital puts an ambulance on standby in case an athlete is badly injured. Woosley said the trainers attend middle school games only for football.

Bill Jensen, the school district’s assistant superintendent of secondary education, said the exclusive partnership with Columbus Regional began in response to a debate about the danger of concussions and local middle school principals’ concern that trainers were unavailable for their students’ football

games.

Previously, the hospital partnered with the school system and with Southern Indiana Orthopedics of Columbus to provide a trainer at North, Jensen said. He said the school system used its own tax-generated money to pay for the only trainer at East.

Together, the two trainers cost the district a total of about $20,000 a year, DeClue said. But she said the savings to the school district this year is closer to $40,000, because that’s how much the district would put out in stipends for four trainers.

The school system’s exclusive partnership with the hospital mirrors other such partnerships around the state. For example, Franklin Community High School partners with Johnson Memorial Hospital in Johnson County.

The local trainers are Souder and Robyn Coffer at North and Kathleen Gratz and Rebecca White at East. Coffer and Gratz had worked previously as athletic trainers in the high schools.

Souder said he comes to North High School about 2 p.m. each weekday to prepare for student athletes who need to get their ankles taped or have some other preliminary treatment before taking to the football field, the baseball diamond or the basketball court.

Souder or Coffer visit Northside Middle School once a week, but often work on those students at other times during the week when they stop by the high school, he said.

The athletic training team of Gratz and White follow a similar schedule at East.

For the past seven years, Gratz had split her time at East between teaching physical education/health and training athletes. She said that left her only enough time in her training duties to cover some school sports.

Gratz used to attend all football games, all volleyball games and varsity-only soccer games, for example, but now having twice the athletic trainers at East enables them also to cover school sports such as golf, she said.

While Gratz said she used to cover only track and field during the spring, the trainers now can add baseball, softball and tennis.

White, who recently graduated from Franklin College with a degree in athletic training, said splitting responsibilities between two trainers at East also gives them a better opportunity to educate athletes about nutrition, stretching muscles and properly lifting weights.

Students who come to trainers with those kinds of questions typically have suffered injuries or have noticed that a body part is getting sore and might become injured, she said.

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