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11/10/2015

Beyond the Sidelines: Athletic Trainers in Industry

Nancy C. Burke, MS, ATC, VATL, Fairfax County Police Department
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For Athletic Trainers, there are a wide range of career opportunities outside of the sports world. This occasional series of articles highlights the work of Athletic Trainers beyond the sidelines.

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Nancy C. Burke, MS, ATC, VATL

Fairfax County Police Department and Fairfax County Criminal Justice Academy, Chantilly, VA



CSMI: WHERE DID YOU GO TO SCHOOL FOR ATHLETIC TRAINING?

NB: I did my undergraduate at James Madison University, but not in athletic training as there was no program at the time and no athletic trainers (Dark Ages). I worked as a student athletic trainer for the women’s teams with a willing instructor. My graduate work was at Eastern Kentucky University under Ken Murray.

WHEN DID YOU START YOUR ATHLETIC TRAINING CAREER?
Graduate student at EKU 1975-1976; teacher athletic trainer starting 1976. Lots of great AT experiences before coming into the law enforcement realm in 2005.

WHEN YOU WERE STUDYING ATHLETIC TRAINING, DID YOU CONSIDER THAT YOU WOULD BE ABLE TO GET A JOB BEYOND THE AREA OF SPORTS?

Back in the medieval times when I was studying and interning I never envisioned a world outside that of athletics/sports. Absolutely remarkable how the field of athletic training has grown into so many settings.

THE ROLE OF ATHLETIC TRAINERS IS OFTEN MISUNDERSTOOD EVEN IN THE SPORTS ARENA. HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH PEOPLE’S CONFUSION ABOUT WHAT ATHLETIC TRAINERS DO WHEN YOU’RE NOT WORKING WITH ATHLETES?

I constantly reinforce the difference between ATs, physical therapists and personal trainers. I have posters and signs in the clinic emphasizing athletic trainer (from the NATA); every document I sign to physicians, supervisors, anyone, is always signed with my credential. Nonetheless it is a daily task explaining athletic training. Would love to have an AT logo like we used to have from the BOC – people are visual and a logo on letterhead, signs on a door, etc., is always helpful. It is up to me to educate about athletic training in my setting; however, over time, I have to do less and less as most Department employees know “their” AT by now.

HOW IS THE JOB DIFFERENT IN A LAW ENFORCEMENT SETTING THAN IN A SPORTS SETTING?

Most injuries are of the musculoskeletal variety, with some general medical issues thrown in (eg. asthma, wound care, concussion); so the clinical assessments are the same, the treatment is the same, however, the mechanisms may be different. A pulled hamstring on the 200m versus a pulled hamstring chasing a bad guy down the street.

IS WORKING WITH PROFESSIONALS EASIER THAN WORKING WITH YOUTH/COLLEGE ATHLETES?

With professionals, I work more closely with their treating physicians and their commanders; no parents or coaches involved. But working with commanders is very similar to working with coaches. There has to be clear and positive communication and working relationships for all to be successful in the return of an employee to full duty. As with athletes, most everyone wants to get back to work as soon as they can, there is a bond among law enforcement officers. Adults are more likely to get on the internet to check out their injury and care so I have to ban them from that! Adults are more likely to work well on a home program of rehabilitation.

FROM THE STANDPOINT OF WORKLOAD, PAY, ETC., DO YOU FIND WORKING IN A NON-SPORTS ENVIRONMENT BENEFICIAL?

I have an 8-hour day/40-hour work week now, as opposed to the 60-hour work weeks I did with athletics. My salary is very reasonable and commensurate with my education and experience. While I am a civilian I have unofficial commander status which makes things easier in command-level dealings. Public safety employees have to be “operationally ready” at any moment to respond which makes their job requirements similar to those of a sport athlete – so I find the environment very similar to any athletic environment with less taping and more rehab, health interventions and education.

DO YOUR ATHLETIC TRAINING PEERS REALIZE THERE’S A WHOLE JOB MARKET BEYOND THE SIDELINES?

Yes, I believe in this day and age the multiple opportunities in athletic training are well advertised; and then there are the athletic trainers who see a need and move to make healthcare for a group much better, such as Dave Pawlowski, ATC, who is the Vice President of Programs for Special Olympics in Virginia following his initial start caring for Special Olympic athletes.

IF YOU COULD SHARE ONE TRICK-OF-THE-TRADE WITH A PEER, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Test for labral hip tear: Patient complains of pain inside the hip joint. Following a history and what is known about the mechanism of the injury, patient will stand on both feet. Shift weight to the involved leg, lock the knee and rotate the upper body as if dancing the twist with a locked knee. Patient will have local intense pain inside the hip and, so far, this has been confirmed as a labral injury. Can continue to confirm with FABER, Fitzgerald, Scour and other tests. Caution: patient is to gently rotate – not go all out!

IN ATHLETICS, CONCUSSIONS DOMINATE THE CONVERSATION. IS THAT AS BIG AN ISSUE IN YOUR SETTING?

Yes, in law enforcement a serious enough concussion may result in a disability separation from the agency. “Warrior” attitudes exhibit all the time, however with education and a program of management, more mTBI injuries are addressed expeditiously and in accordance with current professional and medical standards (4th International Conference on Concussion in Sport). All academy recruits are given a baseline test, all sworn employees are educated about concussion and encouraged to have the baseline test. So far about 1/3rd of the employees have a baseline with more adding all the time.

INSTEAD OF DEALING WITH RETURN-TO-PLAY, YOU’RE DEALING WITH RETURN-TO-WORK DECISIONS. DOES THAT COME WITH MORE OR LESS PRESSURE IN THE PROFESSIONAL ENVIRONMENT THAN IT DOES IN THE SPORTS WORLD?

Great question! Return-to-work decisions are officially made by the treating physician; however my recommendation based on physical performance testing with a clear understanding of their particular job requirements (patrol vs. K9 vs. SWAT vs detective) makes the difference on return to full duty or continued restricted duty until fully able to complete the tests satisfactory. There are worker’s compensation laws to consider; and the employee’s ability to earn a living must be considered in the long run. Not going to try to bring someone back early and then have a re-injury that could be career-ending. As far as pressure, the AT has to be the objective person in the return-to-work decision and make the decision that is best in the long run for the employee.

DESCRIBE A MOMENT THAT YOU LOOK BACK ON AS THE MOST IMPORTANT EXPERIENCE IN YOUR CAREER SO FAR.

  1. Being thoroughly involved in the development, testing and utilization of protective eyewear for women’s lacrosse;
  2. Taking the risk to enter the world of public safety and coming to the realization the positive impact this setting can have on athletic trainers, public safety employees and agencies.

DO YOU USE ANY INJURY TRACKING OR EMR SOFTWARE IN YOUR JOB? IF SO, HOW DOES IT IMPACT WHAT YOU DO?

SportsWare; assists in reports for return on investment with the CPT Billing segment, as well as numbers of those injured and treatments rendered. Am required to report on this quarterly and having the ability to call up the information in an understandable form is very helpful. Also assists in tracking injured employees and their progress.

Nancy invites Athletic Trainers to check out the Public Safety Athletic Trainers' Association website - it's currently being revamped but should be fully updated within the next couple of weeks.


Are you an Athletic Trainer with a story to tell? Drop us a line!



A Legal & Ethical Review of CONCUSSIONS & SPORTS
A Legal & Ethical Review of CONCUSSIONS & SPORTS
Key Takeaways for the Athletic Trainer, Athletic Director, Coach, Heath Care Provider, and Parent


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