We’re celebrating National Athletic Training month by highlighting a handful of athletic trainers within Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy. Today, Ethan Anderson, PT, DPT, ATC, dishes on his athletic training background, what role athletic trainers have within the industry and advice for future athletic trainers.

Q: How long have you been an athletic trainer and what’s your background in athletic training?

Ethan Anderson: I have been an Athletic Trainer since May of 2013. My background includes a B.S. in Athletic Training from Weber State University where I was privileged to work as a Student Athletic Trainer for multiple NCAA Division 1 sports programs as well as high schools and different outpatient physical therapist offices. I also worked as a high school Athletic Trainer in western Montana for 3 years while completing my Doctor of Physical Therapy degree which allowed me to interact with multiple schools and administrators providing much needed sports medicine coverage.

Q: Why did you become an athletic trainer?

Ethan Anderson: I became an Athletic Trainer due to my extensive competitive sports background as well as my passion for health care. I have endured many, sometimes season ending and quite serious, injuries during my competitive days which allows me to connect with athletes in a very personal way regarding their injuries and recovery. It is incredibly rewarding being able to care for an athlete when they are first injured and see them through the recovery process to return to competition. That feeling can’t be overstated.

Q: What role does an athletic trainer play for sports teams?

Ethan Anderson: An Athletic Trainer plays a crucial, and often understated, role in any sports team by allowing athletes to participate to their highest potential by keeping them healthy and safe while competing. In some high school settings, the only medical professional a student-athlete may be able to see is their Athletic Trainer, which allows that relationship to provide for referrals to other appropriate medical providers such as physicians and physical therapists to ensure proper care is taken of any ailments. Athletic Trainers also assist in the prevention of injuries by ensuring proper hydration, nutrition, and technique with exercises or preventative taping and bracing.

Q: Where do you see the profession of athletic training going in the next 5 years?

Ethan Anderson: I see the continued growth and involvement of ATC’s both in the school/athletic setting as well as the clinical setting as the public recognition of our unique skills and value as health care providers increases. Unfortunately, there isn’t much recognition of the high level of training and expertise we possess and still many in the general public confuse us for personal trainers. I feel that recent sentiment from the NATA to transition the Athletic Training profession to a master’s degree will work towards the betterment of all ATC’s. I would also like to see a full time Athletic Trainer in every high school in the state to ensure the health and wellness of student athletes

Q: What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue athletic training as a career?

Ethan Anderson: I would advise anyone considering Athletic Training as a profession to read the NATA position statements and vision statements to understand where the profession is headed over the next few years so they can position themselves to be the most successful and competitive as possible when looking for employment. Becoming an Athletic Trainer comes with the responsibility for not only the athletes and patients you care for, but also the responsibility to help lead the profession to new heights.

Simply put, tennis elbow is a repetitive strain or trauma injury to the tendons around the outside of the elbow. Every year in the U.S., it effects 1-3% of the population between the ages of 20 and 50. However, despite its name, actual tennis players only make up about 5% of those affected; it is more common among non-athletes and weekend warriors. Typically, when tennis elbow occurs in non-athletes, it is due to a single injury inflicted either during short bouts of heavy lifting or a sudden impact to the area. However, repetitive stress, whether at work or play, can also play a large role1, 2.  But what happens to the tendon itself?

Tendons are made up of collagen fibers, bundled together, that attach muscles to bone; in this case the wrist extensors attach muscle to the bones in the elbow. This tendon is then wrapped in a protective covering that allows it to glide smoothly within the body. Injury occurs when something interrupts the way the tendon moves. Small injuries, or micro traumas, occur when the stress on the tendon is more than the tendon is capable of handling. Tennis elbow develops when micro traumas to this tendon aren’t allowed to heal fully before being injured again.

The body’s natural healing response begins as soon as an injury occurs. This process is known as inflammation. There is a common misconception that inflammation is a bad thing, but only when it goes on longer than necessary or gets out of control. Good blood flow is necessary for the inflammatory process to properly aid in injury recovery. Blood brings all of the body’s healing elements to the injured area. However, blood supply to the tendons in the elbow is relatively low, leading to longer healing times1,2.

The most effective means of treating tennis elbow, or any tendon injury, is through conservative treatment by a registered physical therapist. Physical therapy directs the body’s healing mechanisms to perform to their highest potential, using treatments such as gentle stretching, manual therapy, bracing, and ice.

Gentle stretching, exercise, and manual therapy increase blood flow to the injured area while decreasing pain. Bracing eliminates some of the physical stress from the area and allows the tendons to rest. Ice will help control the inflammation and aid in pain relief.

To ensure that the injury won’t happen again, a registered physical therapist will work to increase the flexibility, strength, and endurance of the injured muscles and tendons. The goal is to tailor a stretching and exercise program to your injury and level of discomfort that will return, and improve, the functioning of your tendon.

Every person and injury is different; it takes the knowledge and skill of a physical therapist to properly treat repetitive strain and trauma injuries like tennis elbow. So if you happen to suffer from tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, or any other sprain or strain have no fear. With an initial assessment, hard work and a skilled hand, you can return to your life without pain.

References:

  1. Sanders, T. et al. (2015). The Epidemiology and Health Care Burden of Tennis Elbow. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 43(5), 1066-1071. Retrieved Jan 21, 2017
  2. Skirven, T. et al. (2011). Rehabilitation of the Hand and Upper Extremity (5 ed., Vol. 1 & 2). St. Louis: CV Mosby.
  3. Tyler, T. et al. (2014, May). CLINICAL OUTCOMES OF THE ADDITION OF ECCENTRICS FOR REHABILITATION OF PREVIOUSLY FAILED TREATMENTS OF GOLFERS ELBOW. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 9(3), 365-370. Retrieved Jan 21, 2017