Originally Published in the Pope County Tribune, August 16, 2019
High school athletes at Minnewaska Area Schools (MAS) experiencing sprained ankles, shoulder pain, a concussion, or other injuries have a new, certified athletic trainer to care for them on and off the field.
Joe Burns, MSEd, LAT, ATC from Glacial Ridge Sports Medicine is there to treat and help prevent sports-related injuries during practices or games. Joe is at the school every afternoon and attends various games and competitions, generally those with the highest risk of impact injuries. “It takes a lot of pressure off the coaches for dealing with injuries. It gives them a piece of mind that they don’t have to worry about that on top of all their other responsibilities,” Burns stated.
Board-certified and licensed by the State of Minnesota to provide athletic training services, Burns has been a high school and college athletic trainer for five years. He earned his bachelor’s degree in athletic training from St. Cloud State University followed by a master of science in sports performance and leadership from Northern State University in Aberdeen, S.D.
“It’s been great. All the coaches have been very welcoming and the administration has been welcoming. It’s a nice transition to come in somewhere and feel so welcomed right off the bat,” said Burns of his Minnewaska experience so far. “I know that going ahead in the future, it’s going to be nothing but positive things.”
Craig Curry and Andy Hillestad, physical therapists at Glacial Ridge Health System, are sports medicine trained and attend additional home athletic events to evaluate and treat any sports-related injuries. Family Medicine Physician Scott Maanum at Glacial Ridge Health System is the medical director of sports medicine.
“The sports medicine program has three objectives,” said Curry, Manager of Therapy Services and Sports Medicine at Glacial Ridge Health System. “We are primarily there to help staff, coaches, parents and players learn the steps to take through training, nutrition, and injury-prevention techniques that lessen the chance of an injury occurring.”
The second objective is to provide on-site evaluation and treatment to stabilize a significant injury – and then ensure the player gets the next level of care as quickly as possible.
Lastly, after an injury and medical treatment, Joe will help students return to physical activity at a level they are able to do safely while still healing. Working cooperatively with local therapy departments and providers assisting with the student’s recovery, Joe will be monitoring their symptoms and assessing function throughout their progressive return to practices until there are no restrictions.
Since Aug. 1, Glacial Ridge Sports Medicine staff have made a lot of progress. For each sport, they have developed emergency action plans for coaches or parents who are responding to medical conditions. There is now an immediate response plan for heat-related injuries and an ice water immersion bath on-site. Internal processes and procedures have been developed and implemented. The athletic trainer’s office and on-court bag is equipped with needed medical equipment including an AED.
The sports medicine team initiated baseline concussion testing for all 7-12 athletes in contact sports because they are more at-risk. It is repeated every two years. The program uses ImPACT, an FDA cleared medical device used by healthcare, educational, and sports organizations to help assess and manage concussions. “With a new facility taking over, we did not have access to the previous testing that was done here, those baseline results. Now we have it in the ownership of the school,” said Burns. He went on to say that Glacial Ridge will be the gate-keepers of the baseline testing and that testing all students grades 7-12 this year gives them a fresh start so that no students fly under their radar.
In the event an athlete sustains an injury, the athletic trainer will test the student again to assess for significant changes in cognitive performance. While the imPACT software does not diagnose a concussion, it provides valuable insight as to the cognitive function to assist a physician with proper diagnosis and treatment options. The athletic trainer will assist doctors, coaches, and teachers with not only a student’s progressive return to activity post-concussion, but also progressive return to the learning environment.