Delaware high school athletic trainers expand trauma care knowledge

Sports Medicine Emergency Management offers continued education
August 15, 2023

Aug. 7 may have been the first day of practices for fall sports in Delaware, but those tasked with protecting the scholar-athletes took time Aug. 3-4 to brush up on their skills and learn the newest methods in athletic healthcare. 

“It’s coming at a good time, because while we have seen the Damar Hamlin case and the Bronny James case, you don’t think it’s something that can happen to you,” said Cape Henlopen High School Athletic Trainer Ashley Schuster. “It’s really good to know and practice these situations in as real life of a scenario as possible.”

Schuster said she feels fortunate to work with the Sports Medicine Emergency Management group as it travels across the country, recently working with Philadelphia Eagles trainers.

SMEM co-owners Darryl Conway and Ed Strapp began the company in 2019 as a way to bring quality emergency medical care to fields and courts across the country. Their desire is to offer the same level of care and ensure best practices are being delivered and used from professional sports down to youth competitions. Conway said the need for such care motivated Strapp and himself to start the company and take their knowledge on tour.

“We go around the country doing emergency management training for professional teams, colleges, high schools and any group that really wants emergency management training,” Conway said.

Conway said they use a walk, jog and run method. They begin with virtual lectures followed by dedicated skills practice. Combining what they learned in the two lessons, trainers use their new skills and knowledge to complete a variety of scenarios. The goal is to simulate real life by producing a fast-paced, stressful environment.

Footing the bill for the training courses is a grant from the University of Delaware.

“I was able to find a grant the Delaware Athletic Trainers’ Association could apply for from the University of Delaware Community Engagement Initiative,” said Jeff Schnieder, head of strength and conditioning and athletic training at UD’s ice arena.

Schnieder said it was important to the initiative for high school trainers from across the state to be able to attend the class. The first class, Aug. 3, was held at Newark Charter as a way to capture New Castle County trainers. The second, Aug. 4, was held at Polytech High School in Woodside to get close enough for Kent and Sussex trainers to attend. Schnieder said it's important for trainers to stay current because what he teaches in his classes now is totally different from what was taught 15 to 20 years ago. He noted that a lot of continuing education is void of a practical component.

“It’s a hands-on simulation in real life, and so trainers are able to make mistakes in a controlled environment. If they ever have to use these skills, they’re not going into it like it’s something new,” he said.

The trainers were exposed to a variety of situations: a wrestler suffering a spinal/neck injury, a bodybuilder collapsing between workout machines, a stationary cyclist suffering a heart attack, and an athlete suffering sickle cell complications in the heat.

“This is huge for secondary school athletic trainers, and everybody was really excited because we have to always be prepared. As research and things change, we have to stay up to date on those things, and some of this stuff is a refresher and some is new to us,” said Delaware Athletic Trainers’ Association President Kathleen Kenney.

Kenney said SMEM is the best in the country at what it does, and remaining up to date on best practices is an important part of their job.

“You have to follow best practices, because there is a liability component to it as well,” Kenney said. “We want to make sure that everybody knows best practices so that we are practicing at the level of college and professional trainers.”

Conway reminded the trainers that they are on the front line when it comes to trauma in high school sports. 

“Don’t let a tragedy go to waste,” Conway said as he implored trainers to review scenarios with school staff and EMS when they occur to make sure they can prevent them, or should it happen at their school, understand how to respond appropriately.

Jenna Turner, a chief flight paramedic with the Maryland State Police, told trainers they should be in communication with local first responders and attempt to work in cross training.

“Just give them a call and let them know what you’re doing, and ask if they can take a day to review your plan of action at your school, and then take a day and check out how they respond to situations,” Turner said.

Cape Henlopen High School is fortunate to have two athletic trainers, while some schools have just one, or if a school has two, they are forced to be apart to cover a variety of games and practices. The situation results in trainers having to rely on themselves to render care and deliver instructions to coaches, players and bystanders. With continuing education, trainers are hoping to equip themselves with the knowledge they need to handle any situation an unpredictable sporting event may present.


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