Year two of training grant
Madras and Culver are both in their second year of a grant that allows athletic trainers to be on the field day to day with teams and athletes.
As part of its commitment to improving athlete health and safety at all levels of sport, the NFL Foundation launched the grant to increase the number of athletic trainers in high schools.
The grant is in collaboration with Gatorade, the National Athletic Trainers' Association, the Korey Stringer Institute and the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society.
The program aims to provide athletic trainers to 150 schools. Four states, Arizona, Illinois, Oklahoma and Oregon, can apply for a three-year $35,000 grant.
Apex Physical Therapy in Madras and the Center Foundation in Bend have teamed up with both the Culver and Madras schools to provide onsite athletic trainers to the schools.
"The purpose of the grant is getting athletic training in rural communities, through an application process," said Brock Monger of Apex Physical Therapy. "The athletic directors were huge in getting this grant. There is a partnership between the school, Center Foundation and Apex that allows for a part-time job for the athletic trainer."
"This grant allows for an athletic trainer to be there every day, before and during practice," he said. "It used to be me, volunteering my time on Mondays, trying to help athletes with lingering injuries and trying to make it to the home football games. Now, with a dedicated athletic trainer, you have someone that knows the athletes better, is integrated into the practice system. They are quickly assessable if an injury does occur."
"In prior years, we would open our doors on Wednesdays and offer free injury-related triage, helping the athlete and parents decide if they need to go see a doctor or if it's a nonemergency," Monger said.
The Center Foundation partners with Central Oregon schools to provide athletic trainers on the sidelines. They serve more than 3,000 students at more than 760 sporting events per year, assisting with sports-related injuries, while educating students on sports safety.
Nicole Porter is the new athletic trainer in Madras and has been at all the fall sporting events. Porter started in early August, getting acquainted with the coaches and players. At the Culver schools, Courtney Miller started in the spring.
Porter, who has played sports throughout her life, has always wanted to be an athletic trainer. "I wanted to be an athletic trainer, so I could be with the athletes and see them right when they get injured, so I can help them with that process to get back on the field," she said.
Porter attended Dakota Wesleyan University, in Mitchell, South Dakota, before earning her graduate degree at South Dakota State, in Brookings, South Dakota. While at South Dakota State, she was a graduate assistant for two years for track and field and cross country.
"I always wanted to work with a smaller school and when I was working with track and cross country, it was a different area, but at the same time, similar to high school sports," Porter said, "different athletes doing different events, with different coaches, learning to juggle all those things."
Currently, she is assisting with the mix of fall sports, which include football, soccer, volleyball and cross country.
"Depending on practices, I usually have a lot of paperwork from the day before, documenting injuries, having kits stocked and everything I need to take out to the fields," Porter said, "On game days, I make sure everything is in order and I know where things are. A lot of the time before practice, I have athletes that need heating, cooling, stretching, taping, all before practice."
Something that schools and trainers find extremely helpful is injury prevention — teaching athletes how to avoid potential injuries.
"This is the second year with the grant, so we are still getting used to some things, but they can come to me instead of getting things checked out by a doctor or possibly going to the hospital," she said. "I can tell them if it is not something they need to see a doctor for and we can work it out through me, through physical therapy, tape, so athletes do not always think they have to go to the doctor."
Athletic trainers have not only been to practices, but they are at all the home games. They also travel with the football teams, during away games.
"On game days, it is a more one on one with that team, instead of bouncing around everywhere," she said, "making sure everyone is ready for the game, actually being on the field with them, making sure nothing is wrong. I get to know the officials, so they know who to call and talk to if there is an injury."
"When it is actually game time, I am on the sidelines, watching, seeing if I am needed anywhere," said Porter. "If someone goes down, I have to wait to get waived on the field. I do a quick evaluation of the athlete, if they are able to move, what they remember, what part of the body is injured. If they player is able to walk off the field, then we will bring them onto the sidelines or the training room and find out what the next step will be."
"It might be something minor, where we can tape them up and get the athlete back out there or something more serious, keeping them out a quarter, half, or maybe multiple games," she said. "I figure out if someone needs to go to the hospital right way or if it is something that needs to be diagnosed again the next day."
"When parents are in the stands, we try and communicate with them and coaches about what is going on. That part is definitely huge; we figure everything out with them," she said.
Last year, the grant allowed athletic trainer Teddy Reece to be at both schools, juggling multiple sports at the same time. Now Porter and Miller have divvied the schools up. Porter works mornings at Apex, while Miller works at a physical therapy clinic in Bend, before heading to Culver.
"That allows the trainers to work 20 hours here (Apex) and 20 hours in the field at the schools," Monger said. "We (Apex) wants to make to make sure we can retain someone for work and hopefully than find a long term fix. I am really happy with what Nicole has been able to offer and has done a great job getting implemented with Apex and the school."
"This grant was a huge help to the school, allowing them to have access to an athletic trainer," Porter said. "Originally, when I applied, the position was not open, but it has been great working for the Center Foundation and working with the high school teams, not only with injuries, but also teaching them about athletic training and getting it known out there what we do and what we can do for everyone."
"This is huge, getting athletic trainers in high schools, especially with sports that are high-impact, having us on the sideline, telling the coaches a player should or should not return. Having an athletic trainer, it makes sure coaches are not put into that position, especially during a game or practice."
The Center Foundation has played a crucial role in finding athletic trainers who are not only qualified, but fit well with the schools and communities.
"For a long time, a goal was to get an athletic trainer at schools, practices, events," Monger said. "They (Center Foundation) have been very important for getting both trainers in Madras and Culver. As a small physical therapy clinic, it is something we would not have been able to offer on our own. It would have been a financial burden to find the funding for a trainer."
"They play a big part in the recruitment process and getting athletic trainers to fill spots and get talented applicants," he said. "That is something I would have had a heck of a time doing — finding someone that wants to be here, and is talented."
"We are a nonprofit organization and our mission is to provide education and give access to sports medicine services." said Stuart Schmidt, athletic trainer supervisor for the Center Foundation. "Our vision is extend our services to all of Central Oregon."
"Our main flagship program is our sports medicine outreach program," Schmidt said. "We supply athletic trainers to eight high schools in Central Oregon. We supply trainers at no cost to the students and their families, during practices and games."
"Our programs are a partnership between us, the school districts, physical therapy and the NFL grant," Schmidt said. "We want a trainer that is experienced, well-educated, but also someone that is also able to relate to the community."
"As an athletic trainer myself, I think this is absolutely crucial," he said. "Anywhere there is football or playing sports, athletic trainers should be on the sidelines for all events. We're allied health professionals, on the front lines, who can help evaluate injuries."
The athletic trainers, Center Foundation, athletic directors and physical therapy clinics have been working hard to keep Jefferson County athletes safe and healthy. The grant allows the trained specialists to not only teach injury prevention and diagnose injured athletes, but become a part of the community.
"I am enjoying working at the high school a lot," Porter said. "It is not where I expected to be, but thanks to the grant, I am here and it has been very enjoyable."