Local coaches, trainers gather for NEO health conference

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Photo: Local first responders lead a demonstration on treating spinal injuries at the Northeast Orthopedics Coaches Symposium at Southside High School on August 9. Pictured, from left: Southside Fire Chief Wade Buckner, Glencoe Fire Chief Richard Johnson and Southside firefighter Clint Johnson. (Emma Kirkemier /Messenger)

By Emma Kirkemier, News Editor

Dozens of area coaches attended a conference on student athlete health and safety hosted by Northeast Orthopedics August 8 in the Southside High School auditorium.

Dr. George Douthit, Jr., of Northeast Orthopedics welcomed trainers, coaches and administrators alike to the event, officially the 6th Annual Coaches Symposium.

The conference provided five optional sessions, from which participants could choose two. Sessions included a lecture from NEO’s Dr. Adam Shaw on concussions, a demonstration from local fire departments on spinal injuries, a remote presentation by Milwaukee Brewers’ Athletic Trainer Scott Barringer on shoulder injuries, a discussion on overuse injuries in young student athletes and a seminar from NEO’s Erin Sparks on preventing ACL injuries.

“[NEO] support[s] our schools in a huge way,” said Etowah County Schools Superintendent Dr. Alan Cosby. “We just want to learn today and put our athletes in the best conditions they can be in.”

Though the goal was to keep student athletes healthy, several sessions focused on how to handle situations where they are not.

Local fire departments of Glencoe and Southside collaborated to teach participants how to react to spinal injuries on the court or field. Though present at many events, EMTs will not rush to an injured student unless signaled to do so by the athletic trainer, said Southside Fire Chief Wade Buckner. This is to keep games running smoothly and to avoid unhelpful or unnecessary crowding around the injured student.

Buckner and Southside firefighter Clint Johnson demonstrated how to put an injured athlete on a spine board in the event of a spine or neck injury and how to safely remove a football helmet and shoulder pads. One coach should be designated to call 911, they said, while others devote their attention to the injured party.

Football-field-marking complaints aside, fire chiefs explained that getting an ambulance as close as possible to the student reduces the distance he need be moved, potentially upsetting the injury, and provides the fastest and most effective care possible. Glencoe Fire Chief Richard Johnson demonstrated how to position a splint for delicate kinds of bone fractures.

The symposium was energized by the anticipation of upcoming fall sports seasons, especially with fewer public health restrictions and greater crowds.

“I daresay this may be the best participation, top to bottom, we’ve ever had,
 Cosby said. “I think everybody’s ready to get back to what we were doing in 2019.”

The changes of the last few years were not entirely absent, however, as the conference’s part-remote modality showed, but using Zoom allowed local coaches to hear from Barringer, a sports medicine professional who was unable to attend in person.

“This just shows you the commitment that our teachers and our coaches have to extracurricular activities by them being here today,” Cosby said. “Extracurricular activities and academics, I think they go hand in hand. I think that you can’t be successful in one without the other because it’s just part of making up the entire student (experience).”

According to Cosby, ongoing education and training for local educators is vital to that experience. Healthy students, he said, precede healthy communities.

“You can’t replicate the feeling around a school and around a community on a Friday night — with the high school football game, with the bands, with everyone,” Cosby said. “Our communities and our football stadiums, that, for about a two-and-a-half-hour period, becomes the hub of all six of our various high schools and various communities we have around the county. And there is nothing to bring together support for a school and support for a community like (high school athletics).”

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