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Article Athletics

By RODNEY PEELE

A quiet improvement to the APMA Annual Meeting has been the inclusion of certified athletic trainers, both as speakers and attendees. The cooperation builds awareness of podiatric medicine in an allied health profession, introduces DPMs to the education and expertise of certified athletic trainers (ATCs), and attracts more specialists to the APMA scientific sessions and exhibit hall.

“It’s fabulous,” said Mark Dollard, DPM, co-chair of the Annual Meeting with Sheldon Laps, DPM. “It’s wonderful to have them as part of the program, so we can all be on the same page when it comes to treating athletes.”

This summer, the sports medicine track of the educational program will include a talk by a leading athletic trainer from the Washington area. Jon Almquist, ATC, will explain how to coordinate podiatric medical care with certified athletic trainers. The ATCs, like the DPMs, can earn up to 32 continuing medical education (CME) credits for the low $89 registration fee.

“Any time we can increase communication between providers, it increases the benefit to the patient,” said Almquist, a specialist for the Fairfax County (Va.) Public Schools Athletic Training Program who coordinates the athletic trainers for 24 high schools in one of the nation's premier public school systems.

In Fairfax County, every public high school has two athletic trainers to treat and care for students. Nationally, however, fewer than 30 percent of schools have ATCs. The American Medical Association (AMA) passed a resolution in 1998 urging all schools to provide the services of a certified athletic trainer for student athletes. Almquist has pushed for that requirement throughout his state.

Almquist, who has a special interest in spine injuries, referred patients to several podiatrists in Northern Virginia when he was the ATC at George C. Marshall High School in Falls Church for 16 years. He created an injury tracking system for Fairfax County schools, and coordinates epidemiological injury data collection for US Lacrosse. The schools’ injury tracking system shows nearly 50 percent of injuries involve the foot, ankle, or leg.

One highlight of Almquist’s career was presenting a two-week seminar on sports medicine to elite soccer coaches in the Middle Eastern country of Bahrain in 1989. He also worked with doping control and women’s soccer at the 1996 Summer Olympics. Dr. Dollard said Almquist has been an important resource for him to help get ATCs at large athletic events in Northern Virginia.

“Certified athletic trainers are a budding profession,” Dr. Dollard said. “They’re the first response team in the athletic world. They evaluate the extent of the injury on the field, and give the first critical and necessary care . . . The great majority of injuries for athletes are foot and ankle injuries.”

Almquist also has extensive involvement in professional development for ATCs. He chairs a National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) task force on prevention, assessment, care, and management of athletic injuries to middle and high school students, and an NATA committee for secondary school athletic trainers. The task force created a consensus statement on appropriate medical care for secondary school-age athletes, which has been endorsed by the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine. In addition, Almquist helped the NATA create guides for implementing and improving programs in schools.

An ATC must have a four-year college degree from an accredited athletic training program and pass a national certification examination. The AMA recognized the certified athletic trainer as an allied heath care professional in 1990, and now most states license ATCs. Almquist supported efforts in Virginia to regulate ATCs, and he is on the Advisory Board on Athletic Training for the Virginia Board of Medicine.

Much like podiatric physicians, athletic trainers strive to educate the public and other health care providers about their training and expertise. “We have similar interests,” Almquist said of ATCs and DPMs.

“I’m very enthusiastic about having them at our meeting,” said Dr. Dollard, who has worked with Almquist for nearly two decades. “I think we have a nice relationship with the athletic trainers.”

See http://www.nata.org/ for more about certified athletic trainers.