As high-stakes as any athletic competition can be, the top priority for any program should be the safety and well-being of its players while taking part in their sport of choice.
For local athletes who are battling injuries, Optim Sports Medicine is a popular destination for treatment and rehabilitation in order to get back into the game. But for Optim orthopedic surgeon Dr. Don Aaron and Dr. Justin Lancaster, there existed a need to get out in front of potential health hazards for athletes.
The two doctors joined others from Optim and the Georgia Southern University sports medicine staff on Saturday at Paulson Stadium to cover a wide range of health concerns. The clinic was attended by around 50 coaches, administrators and athletic trainers from many high schools around the area as they got a comprehensive rundown of techniques and skills to prevent some dangers while quickly identifying and properly addressing others.
“Several weeks ago we started talking about putting together an event where we could get our trainers, coaches and athletic directors together,” Aaron said. “There are a lot of hot-button topics out there like concussions and conditioning. We wanted to make sure that everyone is on the same page.”
Topics given their own specific speaking times during the symposium included concussions, spinal injuries, hydration and heat exposure, as well as lightning safety.
In addition to the information and advice given in the discussions by Aaron, Lancaster and Georgia Southern Head Athletic Trainer Brandy Clouse, the day also served as a forum. Many of those in attendance shared stories of previous experiences and bounced questions and possible solutions off of one another, helping to give everyone an idea of the best practices for each situation.
“Caring for our student-athletes is best done from a team approach,” Lancaster said. “It’s best that every team of trainers goes over how they’ll approach things. And in instances of smaller schools where there might only be one trainer, it’s important for them to have an understanding with coaches and administrators how things will work.”
Clouse also made sure to stress that trainers assert themselves in the event that there is disagreement on whether a player is fit to continue participating or if weather conditions warrant a halt in activity. She detailed her own preparations for various sports at Georgia Southern on when and how to stay safe in heat and storms while sharing some examples of how she was able to stress her medical concerns to some coaches.
“We know it’s high stakes and that there’s a lot of passion involved in sports,” Aaron said. “We know that no one wants to call a practice or keep someone from playing, but so long as everyone realizes that the well-being of our athletes comes first, we can all work together.”
Optim was pleased with Saturday’s turnout and isn’t done with its community outreach. On Aug. 6, another event is planned at Statesboro High School. At the upcoming event, the focus will be on local boards of education, as well as parents and students, with trainers on hand to field questions and listen to concerns.