Athletic Trainer Services for Student Athletes Remain Robust, Despite COVID-19

Football on grassy fieldBy Carolyn Comeau

COVID-19 has brought an inestimable number of uncertainties to daily life, but it’s school systems that may have to make the hardest calls about the future, and what learning will look like. Accordingly, student athletes involved in school sports programs are in a similar state of limbo.

“At this point,” said Shelli Landis, Licensed Athletic Trainer, Certified Athletic Trainer and Manager of Sports Medicine at Mission Health, “the upcoming academic year’s student sports scenarios for the five counties we serve could all end up being very different, because the virus is affecting each one differently, and the programs hinge on how instruction will be carried out.”

Putting Safety First

The North Carolina High School Athletic Association [1] (NCHSAA) allowed summer conditioning programs to go on at Phase One levels, but delayed the start of fall sports season until at least September 1. At this time a five-day “dead period” will start, with no school sports activities allowed. “Then, students and staff can focus on starting the academic year, which we know will be unlike any other,” said Landis, who oversees the sports medicine programs for all six Mission Health hospitals.

She also shared that the delayed start could last longer, depending on what districts decide. “No matter how things roll out, our athletic trainers will be ready to put student athletes’ safety and well-being first, as always,” she said.

Athletic Trainers Are Indispensable Resources

Landis emphasized the pivotal role that certified athletic trainers play in student athletes’ lives. “These highly trained allied health professionals offer an unparalleled continuum of care — preventive care, evaluation, acute care, condition management and helping students get back on the field after injury through rehab,” she said.

The athletic trainers, who work out of offices at their respective schools are valuable liaisons among coaches, school administrators and the Mission Sports Medicine physician team, because of their knowledge of student athletes’ medical histories and daily interactions with them. “This care team doesn’t just meet state care standards, they exceed them,” said Landis.

A Fine-tuned Alliance

Mission Sports Medicine works with the NCHSAA to support sound, nationally recognized safety protocols, including new guidelines for athletic facility cleanliness and disinfection techniques, masking and distancing. Landis enumerated some of the safety protocols instituted when student athletes arrive for training sessions that include answering screening questions and having their temperatures taken, while athletic trainers are outfitted with personal protective equipment (PPE) like gloves and face shields if they need to address an injury.

“The care we’re providing looks very different now from what we’ve seen previously, when student athletes got frequent hands-on treatment, often on the field,” said Landis. “We’ve adapted in many ways, so we can guarantee the safest care for our student athletes without compromising its quality.”

When talking about the athletic training staff’s commitment to their student athletes, Landis is unequivocal. She said, “We never thought we’d be applying our medical expertise in a pandemic, but here we are, continuing to provide excellent frontline services. No matter how the 2020-2021 academic year unfolds, we’ll do our best to facilitate and elevate the level of care we provide.”


Shelli Landis, LAT, ATC, is Manager of Mission Sports Medicine.

To learn more about Mission Sports Medicine, click here. [2]