Yukon puts athletes’ health at top of priority list

When it comes to athletic safety, Yukon takes a backseat to nobody.

Yukon Public Schools enters its third year as a part of the Safety in Football Campaign put on by the Oklahoma Athletic Trainers Association.

“It’s our third year to be a part of Safety in Football,” Yukon head athletic trainer Leander Walker said. “The Oklahoma Trainers Association started this program three years ago, so we have been a part of it from day one. We have received a lot of positive feedback. There are now 15 states that are participating in the program and more say they are close to joining us as well. Alaska is doing a Safety in Hockey Campaign.”

Walker is not just the head trainer for Yukon Public Schools. He also is the president-elect for the Oklahoma Trainers Association and has served as the secretary for the group for the previous five years.

“I believe it is important that people understand exactly what an athletic trainer does,” Walker said. “The most important thing we do is decrease injuries in athletics and keep kids on the field and more importantly, in the classroom.

Cynthia LaBella, M.D., FAAP; lead author, 2012 American Academy of Pediatrics athletic trainers are vital to safety in sports.

“Athletic trainers have a skill set that is very valuable,” LaBella said in a statement released by the Oklahoma Trainers Association.

“Especially now when there is such a focus on concussions and related treatment and care. Concussed athletes are more likely to be identified in schools with athletic trainers and thus more likely to receive proper treatment.”

Walker said football has fallen under attack for being too dangerous, but understands the concern.

“I love the sport,” he said. “I played it, but I know for a fact that I wouldn’t let my child play football if there wasn’t an athletic trainer present. I look at it this way, I wouldn’t drop my kid off at the pool if there wasn’t a lifeguard on duty, so why would I allow my kid to play sports without an athletic trainer on site?”

The National Athletic Trainers Association says having an emergency action plan is crucial when it comes to sports.

“Proper emergency management of limb – or life-threatening injuries is critical and should be handled by trained medical and allied personnel. Preparation for response to emergencies includes education and training, maintenance of emergency equipment and supplies, appropriate use of personnel, and the formation and implementation of an emergency plan.”

Walker said an emergency action plan is one of the most important things they do at Yukon.

“Before every home football game, the athletic trainers and the student aides have a meeting to discuss everyone’s responsibilities if an emergency were to occur,” Walker said. “We are prepared and ready for anything to happen. If a situation happens, we don’t need to be thinking about what to do at that time, we need to know what to do and take action. When seconds count, we want to make sure we don’t waste any seconds.”

One of the advantages Yukon has over other schools is having all of its athletic facilities on one campus. This allows for an athletic trainer to get to where they need to go in case of an injury.

“We are blessed to have one campus,” Walker said. “Several years ago, that was not the case and it made it difficult, but now we always have an athletic trainer on site at every home athletic event and we can be there in one minute.”

Walker said he has seen athletic training in Oklahoma grow, but would like to see it grow even more.

“I know we have a lot of school districts in this state, so to expect each district to have its own athletic trainer is not realistic, but allowing athletes to have more access to an athletic trainer would help a lot,” Walker said. “That’s where I want to see the most growth over the next 5 to 10 years.”

Even though Yukon is ahead of the game when it comes to athletic training, Walker said he always learning and always looking for ways to improve.

“I have a good relationship with most of the athletic trainers across the state,” he said. “Once or twice a year, I will go over to the east side or another part of the state and just spend a day with them watching what they are doing. I want to see if they are doing something different that I want to bring to Yukon. Our first priority is the safety of these athletes and we are always looking for ways to make them more safe.”

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