This is part 3 of 3 of my introductory blog series My “Why” detailing the purpose and motivation behind Hutch Health Services. Click the links for part 1 and part 2 if you didn't catch them.
Why did I choose to specialize in sports medicine?
Sports + Medicine- it's how I was raised
If you read part 1, then you already know that I've been involved in sports medicine my whole life, starting with father's role as the Director of Sports Medicine at The University of Texas. I've been in training rooms and attending sporting events with my dad for as long as I can remember, and I continued down that path with my career starting in high school, through my college education, and professionally for nearly 10 years now.
What I didn't mention in part 1, was that I have also always been heavily involved in playing sports. Growing up, I played sports year-round.
Fall was for soccer (football once my mom let me)
Winter was basketball season (my favorite, but worst sport)
The Spring was for baseball (my best sport)
I was on a local swim team (the Balcones Sharks!) during the summer for a number of years, in addition to going on family windsurfing trips (my dad's favorite sport), and going camping/hiking with the Boy Scouts, and going to soccer, baseball, and basketball skills camps.
Karate was once/week year-round for about 7 years.
That was my yearly sports calendar up through high school. Even when I took up athletic training in high school, I continued to play on rec sports teams through my senior year (except summer sports camps were replaced with summer athletic training camp).
In college I played as many intramural sports as I could between classes and my athletic training schedule. With more free time in grad school, I was co-captain of the IM teams for our PT class. When I wasn't playing sports, I was watching them, reading articles about them, listening to podcasts about them...needless to say, I have always been a sports junkie.
Besides following in the steps of my father, my love for sports and my interest in science and medicine made athletic training the clear choice for my undergrad degree. I have no idea what I would have majored in if I didn't get in to the athletic training program. I actually was accepted in to UT as a sociology major. On day 1 of orientation I met with an advisor in the College of Liberal Arts, and told her that my intention was to pursue Athletic Training.
I am an Athletic Trainer
March is designated as National Athletic Training Month by the National Athletic Training Association in order to spread awareness of the important work done by athletic trainers. I am proud to be an athletic trainer (ATs), and believe that Athletic Trainers are some of the most under-appreciated health care providers in our system, this year more than ever, as we deal with COVID-19 and ATs have been relied upon to help establish and implement health and safety protocols to keep our athletes safe.
To be clear; in my experience studying both athletic training and physical therapy, the orthopedic knowledge and education of the athletic trainer is as comprehensive and detailed as that of the physical therapist. Yes, physical therapists study other areas that ATs don't, such as neurological, pediatric, and geriatric rehab, but when it comes to the evaluation, treatment, and rehabilitation of orthopedic injuries, there was nothing covered in my Doctor of Physical Therapy program that I did not learn while earning my Bachelor's of Science in Athletic Training.
A reason AT's are under-appreciated is that many people don't get to experience the quality of care an AT can provide unless they are involved in organized team sports, and most people have no idea what AT's do. When I tell people I'm an athletic trainer, most people assume that I mean personal trainer, and ask me for workout tips. In reality, athletic trainers are recognized by the American Medical Association and the Department of Human Health Services as an allied health profession. Athletic training encompasses the prevention, examination, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of emergent, acute or chronic injuries and medical conditions. We most commonly work in sports settings in schools, universities, and for professional organizations, but ATs also work in physician's offices, hospitals, and in occupational health settings.
Athletic trainers wear many hats and perform many roles as part of the healthcare team. We work in collaboration or under the direction of a physician, and the services provided by athletic trainers include primary care, injury and illness prevention, wellness promotion and education, emergent care, examination and clinical diagnosis, therapeutic intervention and rehabilitation of injuries and medical conditions.
Here are some of the roles that I personally have performed, or have observed other AT's perform over the years in working with athletes:
This is the role we're most known for, because it's easiest to observe. Yes, we provide athletes to hydrate. Did you know that we also measure the amount of water weight an athlete lost during practices and games to ensure proper replenishment by the next workout?
First Aid/Emergency Response
Probably the 2nd most well recognized role of an AT is to provide care for acute injuries to athletes. This is the role that I most commonly perform as an AT currently; providing game coverage for local schools and tournaments. I'll never forget having to backboard a football player our first week of football practice at UT, and I know several that have provided life-saving CPR and AED treatments to athletes in acute distress. This is one of the most important, but lease favorite roles of the AT.
Pre-game taping, stretching, and warm-ups, post-came cryotherapy, massage, and recovery treatments.
Environmental Safety Expert
We monitor the weather to make sure it's safe to play, but also scanning the field of play and surrounding areas for hazards that could cause injury.
Probably my favorite role to play is helping an injured athlete rehabilitate and return to play. Ultimately my interest in rehab is what lead me to pursue my Doctorate in Physical Therapy. However, as I said earlier, I found the DPT's orthopedic curriculum to be a review of what I had previously learned to become an Athletic Trainer.
This is the most under-appreciated role of the AT in my opinion. We act as the bridge between healthcare providers, the athletes, and the coaches/team management. This includes:
directing athletes in what type of care they need
scheduling appointments for athletes
Providing transportation/escorting athletes to their appointments with physicians, chiropractors, massage therapists, hand therapists...I once escorted an athlete to GERMANY so that he could receive cutting edge PRP injections
picking up prescriptions and delivering them to athletes with instruction on the doseage
acting as a scribe for team physicians to send out updates to the team staff
ATs analyze the bio-mechanics of their athletes while performing functional and sports-related tasks, to determine an abnormalities or in-efficiencies. This is how ATs work in occupational health settings, in addition to providing first-aid and rehab services to employees.
On larger teams/staff, there is commonly a member or team of equipment managers that are in-charge of the purchase, fitting, maintenance, storage, and packing of equipment, but for high schools and smaller teams, the athletic trainer often fulfills this role. I know some ATs that are the equipment manager AND strength and conditioning coordinator for their teams. The AT for the Houston Rockets is even an assistant general manager!
There is quite a bit of travel and logistics involved in the operations of a sports organization. Not only are the ATs part of the travel team that goes where the athletes go, but many times that are the one's booking the flights and hotels, and making the travel itineraries for the team.
All healthcare providers should act as advocates for their patients/clients health, however athletic trainers are in a unique position in this regard due to their frequent proximity to the athlete, and their role as liaison between all healthcare providers and management. They advocate for the needs of their athletes when interacting with management, with coaches, with the athlete's family members, and often even with the athletes themselves. There have been so many situations where I have had to have stern conversations with a teenager, their parent, and/or their coach regarding the severity of their condition and the importance of not returning to play until ready.
This is what draws me to athletic training the most. As an AT, you are absolutely a part of the team. Your goals and those of the athletes and the team are aligned. Team success is your personal success and vice-versa. Being part of the team, you develop deep, meaningful relationships with other members of the team, including the athletes, coaches, and other support staff. It makes it all the more rewarding when you get to see an athlete return to performing at the best. Many times you were literally there watching when the athlete got injured, you were the first person to console them and carry them off the field, and you've been with them everyday, through every step of the rehabilitation process.
As you can see, the athletic trainer is a versatile healthcare provider, truly one of the originators of person-centered care. The AT-Athlete relationship has many benefits:
Developing deep relationships/rapport
Clear alignment of goals between the athlete and the AT
Improved efficiency/reduced cost of care
Care based solely on the needs of the athlete, rather then the directives of the insurance company
Athletes benefit from having their athletic trainer available to them on a daily basis. In addition to receiving acute care for their injuries immediately, (thus improving recovery rates) they also receive preventative and maintenance care, often identifying potential issues before that arise, or before they become severe enough that the athlete has to miss time.
The AT is intimately familiar with the athlete's medical history, and knows them personally, to know their goals, aspirations, and limitations. The AT is the first line of defense for an athlete with any health-related issue, and they can quickly identify what type of care the athlete needs, and direct them appropriately, often saving time and money that may otherwise be wasted seeking inappropriate care.
Other than obtaining proof of insurance for records and liability in the school setting, the question of what insurance coverage an athlete had has literally never come up when determining the appropriate course of action to take. The athlete receives the best available care, and as much of that care as they need, period. That is how I learned to be a healthcare provider, and that is what I aim to provide with Hutch Health Services.
My Vision for Hutch Health Services
My experiences in sports medicine and the relationship between the athletic trainer and their athletes has provided the framework for my vision of Hutch Health Services.
I used to have a very narrow mindset in terms of who was and who wasn't an athlete, and who it was that I did (and didn't) want to work with as a healthcare provider.
However, the more elite level
athletes I've had the opportunity to know, the more I've come to understand, that athletes are just regular people, with a particular set of skills.
Athletes have strengths and weakness, athletes have good days and bad days. Athletes are resilient, and persistent, and physically talented, but they also have fears, and anxiety, and can lose their confidence. Athlete has goals, and aspirations, and interests outside of their careers. You may be surprised to know that just because someone is a professional athlete, does not mean that they are the epitome of health.
Athletes come in all body types.
They come from all walks of life, from every country, and culture, and all religious backgrounds.
Athletes have wide ranges of physical abilities and talents, and an elite level athlete in one sport, may be absolutely terrible at another.
So what makes someone an athlete?
What makes someone NOT an athlete?
Merriam-Webster defines athlete as "a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina."
Notice, no one is born an athlete nor is it set in stone that you're an athlete for life once you've achieved "athlete" status. Being an athlete is more of a lifestyle than it is a particular look, or skill-set.
So in my mind, using this loose interpretation, We. Are. All. Athletes.
My aim with Hutch Health Services, is to provide athlete-level care, mirroring the athlete-athletic trainer relationship, to those who seek it.
No insurance benefit restrictions getting in the way.
Providing the best available healthcare, centered around the needs and goals of the client, specifically when it comes to getting back to their physical activities of choice.
Interested in learning more? Book a free discovery call with me today:
book online: https://www.hutchhealthservices.com/book-online
Check out our Facebook Group We Are All Athletes and to join our online community that celebrates the human body and it's achievements, while spreading the messages of body positivity and inclusion when it comes to physical activity.