EAST GREENWICH—The Rocky Hill Country Day School recently received the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) Safe Sports School Award, implemented to recognize high schools that prioritize keeping young athletes safe. The school received the award in recognition of its Mariner athletic program, which met the standards laid forth to increase and improve the safety of sports generally, and is now recognized as a bastion of expert care, injury prevention and treatment in youth sports. Rocky Hill athletic trainer and assistant athletic director Arthur Entwistle spoke to the value of receiving the award.
“Rocky Hill Country Day School is honored to receive this first team recognition from NATA,” Entwistle said. “We remain committed to keeping our student athletes safe during physical education classes, team practices and games so they can accomplish their own goals of great competition, winning records, fair sportsmanship and good health. Our goal is to lead our athletics program to the highest safety standards for our players.”
The NATA is a national association for athletic trainers, who are health care professionals specializing in the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries and sports-related illnesses. The NATA represents and supports 45,000 members of the athletic training profession and awards the Safe Sports School Award as part of its At Your Own Risk public awareness initiative, designed to educate, provide resources and equip the public to act and advocate for safety in work, life and sports. In all, the organization aims primarily to assist trainers in preventing and treating chronic musculoskeletal injuries from sports, physical and occupational activity, and providing immediate care for acute injuries.
The Rocky Hill Mariner athletic program affords students the opportunity to compete in basketball, cross country, field hockey, golf, lacrosse, soccer, softball and tennis, and had to meet numerous stringent requirements to qualify for the NATA award. In order to achieve Safe Sports School status, the school had to endeavor to meet a series of requirements including creating a positive athletic health care administrative system, coordinating pre-participation physical examinations, promoting safe and appropriate practice and competition facilities, providing a permanent and appropriately equipped area to evaluate and treat injured athletes, developing injury and illness prevention strategies which included protocols for environmental conditions, facilitating injury intervention, creating and rehearsing venue-specific emergency action plans, facilitating psychosocial consultation and nutritional counseling and education and ensuring that athletes and parents are educated about the potential benefits and risks in sports as well as their responsibilities.
NATA president Tory Lindley spoke to the value of the award and the importance of school programs such as Rocky Hill’s in ensuring safety education and preparation regarding school sports.
“The health and safety of student-athletes is critical as it has both immediate and long-term effects,” Lindley said. “NATA created the ‘Safe Sports School Award’ to recognize and champion schools nationwide that are committed to enhancing safety in sports. We are proud to see the list of award recipients grow exponentially each year as schools see the immense value in holding themselves to best practices and policies that ensure a high standard of athlete care.”
The achievement is likely to serve as another feather in Rocky Hill’s cap as numerous schools throughout the nation have fallen behind in offering adequate safety training for sports. A study published late last year in the Journal of Athletic Training (the NATA’s peer-reviewed journal) found that 34 percent of public and private high schools in the nation have no access to athletic trainers. Furthermore, the study indicated that lack of appropriate sports medicine care is even greater for private schools, standing at 45 percent, despite parents of private school students traditionally paying much more for the privilege.
“Providing appropriate care for student athletes comes down to priorities. The safety of student athletes must be the top priority for schools with athletic programs, not just in rhetoric, but in allocation of resources to put the appropriate personnel in place,” Lindley said. “Schools need to see athletic trainers are an essential requirement to having an athletics program, similar to how they see the coach. While coaches oversee play on the field, athletic trainers are responsible for injury prevention and addressing the physical and mental effects of playing the game. Athletic trainers should not be a luxury but rather a necessity for all programs.”