CARROLLTON, GA – With heightened attention on safety concerns involving high school sports, the need for athletic trainers is more pronounced than ever, prompting many professional organizations from medical affiliations to athletic associations to endorse this position for every secondary school that offers organized sports.
While most high schools do not have a full-time athletic trainer, Carrollton High School does. In fact, CHS’s full time trainer, Mike Cain, has been on the job since 2009 and has worked with hundreds of student athletes over the past decade. He mitigates injury, manages treatment, and motivates students with a regimen to get them back in the game as soon as possible.
Cain is a rarity not only in Georgia, but in the nation. There are very few public schools that have a full-time athletic trainer on staff, much less one who doesn’t also teach a class.
“Nationwide, only about 35 to 40 percent of high schools – public and private – have invested in an athletic trainer,” he said. “I don’t know of another public school in Georgia that does,” although he acknowledged it is an expectation in the private school arena.
The Newnan native was a three-sport athlete in high school who went on to play baseball in college where injury sidelined him from competition. That experience – working with athletic trainers at the collegiate level – lured him to Middle Tennessee State to get his degree in this field. As a grad student, he had his first experience as a collegiate trainer, but it wasn’t long before he was recruited to come to Carrollton.
“We are very fortunate to be able to have an athletic trainer on staff to care for student athletes,” said CHS Principal David Brooks, who hired Cain when he served as the school’s athletic director. “This is a big benefit to the student athlete and the parent. They don’t have to worry about getting the student to rehab and whether insurance will cover treatment. They get their rehab at school from Coach Cain.”
In 2010 Cain coordinated the school’s decision to move to baseline concussion tests for student athletes who participated in contact sports.
“We did this three years before it was a requirement by the Georgia High School Association,” said Cain. “We were on the forefront of concussion management.”
That baseline test was especially beneficial one fall afternoon when two football players at practice had a collision that left one unresponsive. Because the athlete had taken the baseline cognitive test, further testing revealed he had suffered a severe concussion.
And about the same time, another football player went into anaphylactic shock triggered by a severe allergy. Cain said that day alone demonstrates the importance of having an athletic trainer on site.
“You go through all this training with the hope you never have to use it,” he said. “But when you do, you can save a life.
“I think about that day a lot.”
This year, Cain has an assistant athletic trainer, Shannon Bright, who is also the new healthcare science teacher at CHS. Bright is the head trainer for the female athletes and actually uses her upper-level healthcare science students in assisting with the therapy.
“This has been a great addition to the program and also gives her students real-world clinical work as they help treat the injuries,” said Cain.
Brooks said having Bright on staff expands the scope of treatment.
“With Mrs. Bright, we now have even more coverage and more opportunities for rehab,” said Brooks. “We can now cover all of our home varsity events, most of our away events, and a lot of our feeder program competitions.”
Cain also is grateful for the exceptional relationship the school system has with Carrollton Orthopedic Clinic, Southern Therapy Services and Southwire physician Dr. Michael Poss, who is the school system’s exclusive concussion doctor and the only one who can clear an athlete’s return to play.
“We have a wonderful relationship with these medical teams who are so supportive of our athletic programs,” he said. “And there is no telling how much money this relationship has saved families in medical bills.”
Brooks said the confidence in the program is strong.
“The trainers have a great relationship with the players, coaches, and parents,” he said. “The coaches and parents trust Coach Cain and know that he always acts in the best interest of the student athlete.”
Cain said the goal of a good athletic trainer is to be behind the scenes as much as possible, doing the work in the training room to prevent a problem on the playing field.
“If you don’t know we’re there during the competition, then it’s been a great day,” he said.