Sports injuries impose physical and economic burdens on United States (US) high school athletes yet less than 50% of high schools employ the services of a certified athletic trainer (AT).
Two surveillance systems captured sports injury data from girls’ soccer and basketball during 2006/07-2008/09. High School RIOTM included a large national sample of schools with an AT while the Sports Injury Surveillance System (SSIS) included a sample of Chicago public high schools without an AT. We compared data from these systems to evaluate the impact of ATs on rates and patterns of injury among high school athletes.
Injury rates were higher among schools without ATs than schools with ATs in soccer (RR: 1.73, 95% CI: 1.51-2.00) and basketball (RR: 1.22, 95% CI: 1.03-1.45). While injury patterns were similar between the two samples overall, concussion rates were higher in schools with ATs than schools without ATs in soccer (RR: 8.05, 95% CI: 2.00-32.51) and basketball (RR: 4.50, 95% CI: 1.43-14.16). Additionally, recurrent injuries represented a higher proportion of all injuries in schools without ATs compared to schools with ATs in soccer (IPR: 3.46, 95% CI: 2.70-4.42) and basketball (IPR: 2.46, 95% CI: 1.85-3.28).
ATs have a positive impact in the high school setting. Their efforts preventing, diagnosing, and managing injuries result in lower injury rates and fewer recurrent injuries. Additionally, concussed athletes are more likely to be diagnosed in schools with ATs and thus less likely to return to play prematurely.