KU Health working with Kansas schools to prevent and treat athlete injuries

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TOPEKA — When Doug Wiesner, the youth sports medicine director for the University of Kansas Health System, cut his teeth in the field, treatment often went as far as a Dixie cup filled halfway with water.

The thought process was it would make a tougher athlete, he said.


Wiesner is now working with Kansas City area schools to stay at the forefront of treatment with new emergency action plans and a bag of tools.

Through this collaborative effort, school athletic trainers are receiving a backpack to help respond to injuries and get students back to health faster. The backpack provided by the hospital to area schools includes bleeding control kits, a stethoscope, trauma shears and an EpiPen, among other tools.

“We’ll sit down, and we’ll go OK, what do we need to do so that (school athletic trainers) are better prepared?” Wiesner said. “How do we make them better athletic trainers? How do we help them to take care of their student athletes better?”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, school athletes account for 2 million injuries, 500,000 doctor’s visits and 30,000 hospitalizations every year. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons indicates teenage athletes are injured at about the same rate as professional athletes.

But athletic staff for KU Health System say what separates these injuries from the rest is that teens are still growing, often complicating treatment.

That is why Wiesner and school athletic staff work to put an emergency action plan in place. Simulating the timed responses and running trainers through a variety of situations helps prepare them for the real deal.

Myles Wilcox, an athletic trainer at Blue Valley North High School, said the added resources are critical in responding promptly to emergencies and providing key early treatment.

“With football, (the bag) is on the sideline and at basketball games it is sitting next to us on the bench or in the corner by the scorer’s table,” Wilcox said. “It’s readily available. And our coaches know how to help us if they need to get it for us.”

While responsive training staff is key, Wilcox said preventing on-field injury starts at home. He encouraged parents to make sure their student-athletes take good care of themselves off the field.

“It starts with kids getting proper sleep, proper nutrition, hydration, fuel,” Wilcox said. “Just getting them basically ready to go for the season, keeping them active throughout the year.”

Dana Hawkinson, medical director of infection prevention control for KU Health Systems, dispelled rumors that COVID-19 was spread by sweat for students or adults looking to get active in the gym. Still, he cautioned people to remain vigilant when it comes to the pillars of infection control, including masking.

“It’s very important to have very good ventilation in those areas, especially since we know some of those classes can be packed pretty tight with people,” Hawkinson said. “It’s important to understand that when you are packed in close together, you are just expressing more of those particles out into the environment.”

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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