PURCELLVILLE, Va. (WDVM) — Athletic Trainer Paul Peterson has been working in the Loudoun County Public School system for about 20 years. It’s an understatement to say a lot has changed over two decades; Loudoun is getting ready to open its 17th public school…when Peterson started, there were only five.
Even as Loudoun County grows, the number of athletic trainers in the school system has stayed about the same. Peterson says the county is working toward putting two trainers in every high school in the county. But Loudoun County is leading the way; Peterson says only about 46 percent of high schools nationwide have full-time athletic trainers.
“We are the first line of defense,” said Peterson. “During the day the nurse will take care of injuries, but with so many athletes and so many sports going on, athletic trainers are vital to ensure the health and safety of our student athletes.”
Peterson and his colleagues work holidays, weekends, and late nights. They treat common sprains, heat stroke, and concussions. And in the past couple of years, Loudoun’s athletic trainers have teamed up with Inova Loudoun Hospital’s clinicians and emergency room staff to treat concussions the right way.
In June of 2011, Inova Loudoun opened its Concussion Clinic. A team of specialists treat concussions — in people as young as student athletes to as old as 90 — in a personalized way.
Concussion Clinic Coordinator Anne Blackstone says student athletes are usually referred to the clinic when they’re not recovering in an average period of time.
“If a patient is referred to us from a trainer, then they usually will send the patient with information so we can contact them,” said Blackstone. “Our team will then contact the trainer directly and have conversations regarding their recovery and where they are in the Return to Play stages.
“We’ll dive into those areas, treat those areas, and when they’re ready to return to activities we’ll send them back to the athletic trainer and say, ‘Okay, they’ve done all of our testing here, they’re symptom free, they’re ready to advance to a Return to Play strategy with you.”
Be on the lookout for concussions in your student athlete. Parents or guardians should look for any changes in how their kids normally look, act, behave or feel. But Blackstone says concussions happen — they’re just as likely to happen at football practice as they are to happen in the car or on a bike.
“There’s so much to be gained from team sports,” said Blackstone. “You have to be smart about it. Know your kids and identify when there is a change, and if there’s a change have them evaluated if you suspect concussion.”