Athletics have been an integral part of American culture for years now, and our love of sports has continued to grow. Our love of sports usually begins at a young age while playing little league baseball or pee wee football. And with so many sports being played by such a large portion of the population, including play in sanctioned leagues, inevitably injuries will occur.

As High Schools all around the state begin classes for the 2013-2014 school year; it also signals the return of athletics.

Players and coaches will soon return to their respective fields of play, though, so will the athletic trainers who patrol the sidelines to help treat and protect athletes from injury. While it may seem like common sense to have someone on hand to treat injuries during high school athletics, it’s not always the case.

According to the National Athletic Trainers Association, only about half of the high schools in the United States employee an athletic trainer. While it may be a job that can be overlooked by some, there’s no debating how coaches around Dover feel about what their trainers bring to their particular squad.

“Our trainer is Jim Tucker,” said Caesar Rodney Riders Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Mike Schonewolf. “We have a contract with ATI and he has been assigned to our school for the past half dozen years. He is a true professional and Caesar Rodney is blessed to have his services. He is very knowledgeable and skilled. He is extremely truthful and trustworthy. His care for each athlete is truly remarkable.”

Nowadays, being an athletic trainer is not just cleaning out cuts, or wrapping up sprained ankles. In this day and age, preventative measures, off-the-field training programs, and concussions have all become common place in the sports world, even at the high school level.

A trainer’s job isn’t just to treat, but to help prevent injuries and educate student athletes and coaches.

“Polytech has two athletic trainers (Amy Blansfield and Kaci Burris) and several student trainers who do a wonderful job keeping our athletes healthy and on the field,” said Lynn Richardson Head Field Hockey Coach at Polytech. “They educate our student-athletes on how to prevent injury and also help conduct preseason baseline concussion testing. They also are an excellent resource to coordinating care with physical therapists and orthopedic doctors in our area.”

We’ve moved on from the days of “rub some dirt on it” or “you just got your bell rung” and having competent athletic trainers to watch over student athletes during practice and games has not only allowed things to run more smoothly on the field, but offered unmatched protection to the players competing.

So, next time you’re in the stands cheering on your favorite team don’t overlook the trainers on the sidelines, because without them the games may be very different.