By: Nora Gilman, MS, ATC, ATR and Former Divison I Athletic Trainer in the Big 10 and Summit League
A collegiate sports medicine room at a peak time is rather equivalent to the activity level of Times Square. There are dozens of athletes and professionals buzzing around, committed to the many daily functions necessary to stay competitive at a high level. It’s busy. This is the nuclear plant, providing power for the athletes of the 22 different NCAA sports at the university. As a former contributor to all the moving parts required to prevent injuries, treat current injuries, and encourage athletes to recover properly, I can’t help but to look at our current healthcare for amaetur or recreational athletes and see the gap in opportunity to stay healthy. Too many athletes never get the chance to experience optimal like a D1 athlete does.
That gap is closing. Facilities with collegiate Division I modalities, professionals, and services like RX Sports Recovery (RXSR) are gaining momentum -- and for good reason. If you are an athlete and hit one roadblock after another in attempt to accomplish your goals, whether fatigue or injury, you are among thousands of athletes utilizing these services. The norm for growing as an athlete is more demanding than before, and the opportunities to compete are endless between clubs, races, or physical challenges. The “sports medicine” system was created for this demand in traditional settings such as college athletics: the need to mediate injuries and maintain performance escalated to the extent that it is now a codified profession.
Athletic trainers around the country are responding to familiar calls to duty and are attempting to offer a solution for a new wave of demand in organized athletics. RXSR, The Chicago Recovery Room (CRR), and Return to Play (RTP) all employ board-certified athletic trainers. The goal is to encourage better habits around how we stay healthy through activities we enjoy but also performing at high volumes of it, much like high-level professional or collegiate athletes --all of whom are increasingly victims of injury or prone to symptoms of burnout, such as chronic fatigue.
Breaking the mold of traditional health care for the active comes with some difficulty. Our society has struggled with misinformation or lack of education around physical health for decades. There is a limited amount of professionals available to provide guidance. They’re typically utilized after it's too late -- after injury has occurred. Times are changing. With the transparency that the technology boom has created, people are becoming more informed since information is readily accessible. People have become more self-helping, utilizing new tools such as foam rollers, therabands, or Crossover Symmetry bands. Something else happened: the creation of a variety of recovery modalities, made accessible for any athlete. Now that athletes have something to ‘do’ to stay proactive (instead of just being told they ‘should’), we hope for a gradual behavior shift. These techniques and modalities are playing a vital role as the backbone of future healthier, active individuals.
Jerica Moore, athletic trainer and owner of Return To Play (RTP), located in Jackson City, Tennessee, is a former college athletic trainer at Florida Atlantic University and East Tennessee State University. RTP has state-of-the-art recovery modalities such as NormaTec compression, and Jerica is proficient in a number of hands-on techniques. She discusses how people have caught on to the concept: “The biggest thing that I have seen happening is the education in what proper recovery looks like and what is actually happening,” she says. She attracts people such as CrossFit and Spartan race competitors, seeking her services to help fill-in gaps in their previous health care. She explains, “most of the clients who come see me have had nagging issues that doctors or physical therapists have not been able to completely fix, even surgical cases... or educate them on what their injury really is.” Jerica’s business with recovery services is in its infancy, but her clients are benefiting from this consistent form of care. “These people saw immediate results and pain relief which made them want to come back. Athletes that come in just for recovery purposes have noticed a significant decrease in being sore, which has helped them train harder, leading up to events or competitions,” she says.
RXSR attracts marathon, ultramarathon, CrossFit athletes, and a variety of others. The Chicago Recovery Room (CRR) attracts the same type of athletes around the Chicago-metro area. As Director of Clinical Services, Keelan Schmidley adds to the business with his educational background and work experiences. He explains that he encounters athletes that find it difficult to adequately address injuries as they occur. “They are often times perceived as ‘minor’ in nature; many individuals may neglect treatment or are told by an insurance provider that obtaining treatment is not medically necessary given their functional limitations,” he says. He presses on about problems that are unique to athletes are not received well by reimbursement: “Try telling a nurse/physician reviewer with an insurance company that, ‘our patient requires additional rehabilitation because they have pain with a 400lb deadlift’ or ‘feel a pull’ at mile 18 of a marathon.” Our current healthcare model is leery of providing proactive services or generally fail to understand how ‘rest’ is not an option for some patients. CRR provides unlimited-access to state-of-the-art recovery modalities for the proactive athlete and a variety of rehabilitative and injury assessment programs. “Simply put, many of the injuries we treat and the preventative maintenance/modality utilization we employ does not always fit perfectly in our current healthcare model,” Keelan states.
The environment in facilities like RX Sports Recovery, Return to Play, and The Chicago Recovery Room is a home to people that want nothing else than to stay healthy through their sport. For Jerica, this was the reason why she started her business. She wants to work with people that understand her efforts towards this goal, stating “I want to work with people that want to get better, that want to put in the time to better themselves, and I want to provide the best care possible for these people.” For Keelan, his experience in progressive settings sparked his interest in making a change. “I discovered early on my interest was in working with the non-traditional yet motivated patients and athletes that I encounter everyday in my clinic. Growing this model and paving a new path for an alternative athletic training career is an enjoyable facet and underlying goal of what we strive for,” he says.
Jerica Moore is a certified athletic trainer and has a Masters degree in Sport Science and Kinesiology from East Tennessee State University. Check out Return to Play.
Keelan Schmidley is a certified athletic trainer and has a Bachelor’s in Biology and Athletic Training from University of Wisconsin-Madison. Check out Chicago Recovery Room.