A partnership between Cayuga Medical Center’s Sports Medicine and Athletic Performance program and high school, community, and collegiate sports teams provides their athletes with an extra margin of safety. Certified athletic trainers specializing in athletic health care work closely with physicians and therapists to prevent injuries at practices and games at seven high schools, club sports, and collegiate teams at Cornell University, Ithaca College, and Wells College.
The importance of having an athletic trainer with first aid skills at a game was apparent at an Ithaca High School junior varsity football game this past fall when a collision between two players sent an Ithaca sophomore face down on the field. Ainsley Lovejoy, the Cayuga Medical Center trainer assigned to Ithaca’s school teams, was on the sidelines when she saw the teen collapse. “I ran to him because there was a chance of a spinal injury and a rapid response is important in those instances,” Ainsley recalls.
The teen was conscious and could follow Ainsley’s instruction to wiggle his fingers and toes, a test for spinal nerve damage. When she flashed a pen light into the player’s eye, she could see his pupils did not contract, indicating possible damage to the teen’s cranial nerve that would need urgent medical care. She stabilized his neck with a cervical collar, transferred him to a spine board as a precaution against further injury, and helped emergency crews take the teen to an awaiting ambulance. The rapid response got the teen from the field to Cayuga Medical Center’s Emergency Department within minutes. The young football player was fortunate. Additional tests showed no serious injury to his spine or brain.
Rapid response to injuries is just one job athletic trainers have when watching over players, coaches, referees, and spectators. Trainers also assist with injury rehabilitation, design sport-specific strengthening programs, and modify activities to allow an athlete’s injury to heal while continuing to practice. Muscle strains and joint injuries are among the most common issues for athletes. Trainers assess the damage, stabilize the injury so it can heal, or arrange for advanced care in more serious cases. Sports medicine physicians from Cayuga Medical Center attend many games to observe teams and player safety. A block of time is set aside on Monday mornings so a specialist can examine players who sustain a non-urgent injury during a weekend game.
“Evaluating and treating sports injuries early can significantly reduce damage to tendons and joints,” says Nicole Humpf, who has been the Cayuga Medical Center athletic trainer at Cortland Junior Senior High School for the last seven years.
Both Reilly Record, 17, a senior at Cortland High School, and Caleigh Chase, 15, a freshman, sustained ankle injuries during games. Before games and practices, they rely on Nicole to tape their ankles to prevent additional injury while their ligaments heal. After breaking his thumb during a football game, BonScot Devlen, 17, a Cortland senior, got quick treatment from Fnu Seemant, MD, with Cayuga Medical Center’s Sports Medicine and Athletic Performance program. The Cortland senior now sees Nicole before games and practices for taping to prevent additional injury to his hand.
“Trainers can assess an injury to determine if it is a simple sprain or a more serious fracture that will need medical care,” Nicole says. “Having that level of care at school sports practices and games provides an extra margin of safety.”