Keeping Student Athletes Safe with a Sports Medicine Team

This is the first in a series of articles highlighting the important role athletic trainers and sports medicine physicians play in high school sports, while showcasing the contributions of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital to the student athletes of Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS).

Providing opportunities for extracurricular activities such as athletics, arts and more is at the core of Activities Beyond the Classroom’s work.  To ensure the safety of student athletes in grades 7-12, ABC partners with Cincinnati Children’s to provide full-time on-site medical support for CPS high school athletic programs.

Prior to Cincinnati Children’s involvement, only two CPS schools had on-site sports medicine care; now, that number is up to 10.  The Sports Medicine program provides full-time athletic trainers, plus a sports medicine doctor who cares for students on and off the field.

During the day, the athletic trainers helps students with injury prevention and rehabilitation; they also serve as liaisons, communicating with parents, coaches, and physicians.  After school, the athletic trainers are on the field serving as first responders in the event of a sports-related injury.  When an injury does occur, the athletic trainers assess the student and determine if emergency treatment is necessary, if the child needs to see a physician, or if they are able to rest and return to the game.

Providing medical support for student athletes is important because studies show that children who participate in extracurricular activities, including athletics, are more likely to succeed academically. If a student athlete is injured and unable to return to the game due to a lack of medical care, they are more likely to see a decrease in their academic performance.

One local study (done in 2008) showed that kids who are involved in athletics have a 22% higher GPA across the Cincinnati Public School District.  A 2014 study by the Los Angeles Unified District saw a significant increase in GPAs and graduation rates, plus lower rates of absenteeism among student athletes.

An athletic trainer tends to a football player at a CPS High School

Spotlight: Dr. Kate Berz at Clark Montessori

Dr. Kate Berz is the Team Physician at Clark Montessori Junior/Senior High School and St. Bernard-Elmwood Place High School. She is also a Physician at the Division of Sports Medicine and Emergency Medicine at Cincinnati Children’s.

Dr. Berz treats Clark’s student athletes at a clinic located on school property, inside the athletic trainer’s office.  On any given day, she may treat upwards of eight student athletes on campus, and even more at her Cincinnati Children’s office. For high-impact sports, like football, Dr. Berz and her counterparts are on the sidelines during games.

Dr. Kate Berz of Cincinnati Children’s treats a high school student’s injury.

Dr. Berz began her involvement in team sports as an athlete (basketball and soccer), then as a college soccer coach.  After medical school, she chose to focus on pediatrics. When an opportunity to serve as a specialized Sports Medicine Fellow presented itself, she was quick to pursue it.  After completing her fellowship, she joined the Sports Medicine division at Cincinnati Children’s.

According to Dr. Berz, “physically active children and teenagers are healthier physically, psychologically, and emotionally. But it’s important to balance sports with the student’s overall health.” She strives to make sure that her patients take the best possible care of their developing bodies. “We care deeply about the kids and treat them as we would our own children. Our goal is for them to play and remain active and healthy. Sometimes rest and rehab is what is needed. That is where our athletic trainers in the school are so important, because they get to know the student athletes and their needs. Every day the athletic trainers go above and beyond when working with these kids. We want to help the students meet their goals, play in college and beyond, and learn about healthcare jobs and life after high school. More importantly, we want them to be able to walk when they are 30!”

Keeping student-athletes safe is a home run for all

When she is not in the clinic or on the playing field, Dr. Berz spends much of her time doing outreach programs for the Division of Sports Medicine.  In this capacity, she works to foster relationships with partners like ABC. She advocates to keep kids healthy while they participate in sports, educates medical and non-medical professionals about sports medicine topics, such as asthma, and offers guidance on how to keep kids in school. She also shares her knowledge of the human body and muscular system to help reduce childhood obesity and help children live healthier lives.