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The Age of Virtual Athletic Trainers

The Age of Virtual Athletic Trainers

Benefits of Athletic Trainers 

Athletic Trainers (ATs) play a crucial role in supporting prevention, recognition and diagnosis of athlete injuries. In the United States alone, 1 in 3 high schools do not have access to ATs. Athletic Trainers not only promote athlete welfare but also have the potential to yield significant savings for parents and organizations through reduced healthcare expenditures. If each state employed a full time AT, they could save an estimated $14.7 million annually. By employing ATs in schools, they help reduce the frequency of emergency care for athlete’s injuries via timely injury management and early intervention which results in significant medical cost savings. 

The Problem 

Each year in the United States, 3.5 million youth athletes receive medical treatment for a sports injury, and these injuries make up 30% of all youth emergency department visits. To combat insurmountable healthcare costs, ATs work proactively to protect athletes and provide medical care. Korey Stringer Institute’s Secondary School Athletic Insurance Project conducted a preliminary data analysis of roughly 3,400 sport-related claims from 90 public school districts in 9 states, found that schools with full-time ATs had a claims rate half as high as schools that didn't employ full-time ATs. What’s more, the average claim cost was more than twice as high for schools without full-time ATs compared to those that provided full-time AT services. Additionally, almost 90% of the claims occurring at schools without ATs accounted for injuries that could have been alternatively managed by ATs which, in turn, may have significantly reduced medical claims and costs for both schools and families.  

While ATs play a crucial role in supporting prevention, recognition and diagnosis of athlete injuries, there are significant barriers to procuring ATs including location, accessibility and cost. However, technology and innovation can play a key role in increasing the prevalence of AT’s and health services worldwide. 

The Solution 

Telehealth, or sometimes referred to as telemedicine, is a virtual treatment modality that allows providers to care for patients without an in-person office visit. Telehealth offers convenient and virtual baseline testing, diagnosis and injury management. Additionally, telehealth services support athletes in unique ways such as providing virtual physical therapy and even rehabilitation with athletic trainers. Studies show that telehealth may expand the ability of healthcare professionals to provide timely and effective care to athletes. What’s more, virtual athletic trainer (VAT) programs can help increase athlete rehab protocol adherence by way of accessible, convenient and continuous care regardless of geographical location. 

The role of telehealth in sports injury management has done wonders for athletes' well-being and continues to be an innovative and successful modality. Specifically, the use of VATs has been on the rise since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Current research suggests combining in-person AT services with VAT visits to customize care, accommodate home environments and athlete’s learning abilities, and to involve parents/guardians in athlete care. One study found that by implementing VAT services among youth athletes with concussions, concussion symptoms dramatically decreased, while athlete rehab adherence and enjoyment increased. Sports organizations might consider the implementation of virtual athletic trainers to best support their athletes. If AT services are offered both in-person and virtually, time, location and transportation become less barriers to care. Also, these services can be offered to athletes more frequently, increasing the likelihood of successful and timely injury recovery.  

Through InjureFree’s partnership with Upswing Health, InjureFree’s Virtual Athletic Trainer program offers a solution for easily connecting with and receiving advice from an Athletic Trainer. Through telemedicine, you are connected with an on-demand Athletic Trainer, directly to your phone. Virtual athletic trainers enhance youth sports by making professional health care and guidance more convenient, accessible, and cost-effective, while also prioritizing injury prevention and education. These benefits highlight their importance in supporting the health and success of young athletes in today's digital age. 

Click here to learn more about InjureFree’s Virtual Athletic Trainer solution. 


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