Caitlin Clement|4/28/2022|3 min read

Telehealth And Its Use In High School Sports Medicine

78% of rural and inner-city high school athletes are lacking proper sports medicine


Think back to those high school days. It might be further back for some of us, but do you recall there being an athletic trainer (AT) on staff? Well, if you came from a more rural area, chances are you don’t. According to a study from the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA), 78% of high schools with low AT availability were located in rural or inner-city areas.

With a specific focus on concussion management, the same study found these schools were 50% more likely to have a sport-related concussion (SRC) go un-identified, un-assessed or mismanaged. As concerns around providing proper concussion treatment continue to rise among parents and providers alike, research into solutions has increased.

Insert telehealth services here. Providers are partnering with high schools to offer the medical resources they need via telemedicine! This blog will cover why high AT availability in high school sports is essential, how telehealth is helping to bridge the gap in rural areas and its role in sports nutrition.

Sports-Related Concussion (SRC) and injury management

Proper concussion management, as well as the correct diagnosis of other injuries, is important to the safety of high school athletes. In fact, when correct return-to-play (RTP) protocols are met, the chances of reinjury decrease significantly. This protects the athlete from potentially developing other chronic conditions and missing out on even more game time down the road.

“Providing student athletes with consistent access to athletic trainers is not a luxury, it is a necessity,” said NATA President Tory Lindley, MA, ATC in an article on the NATA website.

Relying on coaches and administrators, with no formal medical training, to diagnose, treat and manage sports injuries is simply put…not a good idea. The likelihood of a misdiagnosis or mistreatment increases. Putting the student athlete at risk.

According to NATA, schools should have at least one full-time AT on staff. This is due to the reality that athletes spend most of their time at practices. Leaving them without proper medical access on a regular basis. However, some high schools don’t have the resources or location to access that kind of care. This is where telehealth comes in!

Increased access in rural areas

One of the many great advantages of telemedicine is the increased medical access it provides to patients living in rural areas. This rings true for sports medicine, too. Not only can it be more cost-effective, but it allows providers to go where the care is needed.

Oftentimes, for those living in more remote areas, medical services are hours away. If an athlete is injured, that critical initial period of diagnosis and treatment is gone. Increasing the patients chances for complications, misdiagnosis and development of chronic injuries.

Providers like Neha Raukar, M.D, Emergency Medicine, see telemedicine as a tool to help bridge the healthcare gap found in rural areas. Her ongoing study with the Mayo Clinic is a feasibility study using acute video consults on the sidelines of high school sporting events across Southeast Minnesota.

"We wanted to find a way to provide a safety net for high school athletes, especially those in rural areas who may not have a sideline medical provider, such as an athletic trainer or physician," said Dr. Raukar in a Mayo Clinic article.

Dr. Rauker is still collecting data, but is one to keep an eye on. Another study by the American Academy of Neurology on the Feasibility and accuracy of teleconcussion for acute evaluation of suspected concussion shows great promise. The study concluded that the data suggested a high level of agreement between remote and face-to-face providers when it came to examinations and remove-from-play determinations. Showing its use in teleconcussion management to be not only useful, but on par with an in-person provider.

While there is always going to be a need for in-person care, the availability of telehealth can help rural high schools experiencing provider shortages offer on-demand medical access. Prioritizing the health and safety of their student athletes.

Sports nutrition management

Injury prevention and treatment is an important part of sports medicine and orthopedic sports medicine, but what athletes put in their body to fuel it is just as crucial. Telenutrition services have been utilized to provide athletes of all ages the tools and knowledge to maximize their athletic performance. For those seeking to go further in their athletic training but with limited access to in-person specialists, they can get in touch from anywhere.

Services offered through telenutrition:

  • Personalized programs

  • Nutrition assessment and analysis

  • Individual and/or group nutrition counseling and education

  • Remote coaching and progress tracking

  • Access to registered dietitians and nutrition specialists

Powering sports medicine

Looking to offer more specialists in your telehealth services? We’d like to take a moment to introduce OpenLoop! Think of us as a telehealth company that powers other telehealth companies behind-the-scenes, seamlessly. We work with a variety of healthcare organizations ready to launch, scale or optimize their virtual care services across the United States.

What does it mean to partner with us? We offer full-stack, private label telehealth support services to assist you where you need it the most across:

Interested in what we can do for your organization? Get in touch here!

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