The medical field is one that has seen significant impact from changes in technology over the last few years. Athletic trainers, whether they work with a professional sports team, in a high school, or in a clinic, have seen the changes in technology first-hand and the ways it has impacted patient care. Let’s look at some of the ways technology has changed the game for athletic trainers.
The widespread usage and integration of smart phones and other mobile devices allows for quick communication between athletic trainers, their patients, and other health care providers. In the professional sports realm this can mean easier patient and athlete management using applications like My Fitness Pal, which tracks athlete diet and exercise and provides valuable information to their coaches and athletic trainers. For those in the clinic, it can mean easily sharing videos on YouTube of rehabilitation techniques. Easier communication also means greater collaboration, as professionals can keep track of patients as they move from the hospital imaging lab to the physician’s office, rehabilitation clinic and beyond. Better communication doesn’t just impact the members of a patient’s care team either, it means greater collaboration in research, and easier access to cutting-edge information.
There has been a great deal of change in the technology used in athletics. Athlete monitoring in the form of small wearable devices can give coaches on the sidelines information on each player such as their breathing and heart rate, temperature, and hydration. Furthermore, movements can be tracked and perfected to improve performance. During trainings and competitions, athletic monitoring devices can inform the coaching and health care teams on when athletes may benefit from rest or continuing their activity.
While enhancing performance is a goal for athletes and their coaches, as allied health professionals, athletic trainers are more interested in an athlete’s overall wellbeing. To this end, monitoring technology can help an athletic trainer spot fatigue and over-exertion before it can become a problem, or worse, lead to an injury.
Technology can help prevent injuries in several ways. The aforementioned athletic monitoring equipment is exciting for athletic trainers working with high-budget athletic teams, but what about those in clinics and high schools? Innovations in sporting equipment (such as helmets or pads) helps prevent injuries. Lower-budget athletic monitoring systems (such as the commercially available FitBit) can help athletic trainers and their patients track exertion and training practices. Everything from chronic fatigue to poor nutrition can put an athlete at risk of injury, and improved athlete management technology can help athletic trainers notice and stop those high-risk activities.
Another shift in athletic training technology has come in the form of improved rehabilitation. Hand-held diagnostic tools, like digital imaging systems, are now becoming available. Wearable monitors can help capture critical data on rehabilitation and help athletic trainers tailor a rehabilitation plan specific to the patient in question. Technology has also shifted in other less-obvious ways. Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM) has seen changes in the hand-held stainless steel tools practitioners use to enhance the body’s healing response. And while other manual therapies may not use any technology aside from the athletic trainer’s hands, recent changes in understanding in the human body means more effective treatments and faster recovery from injuries.
Technology at the University of Idaho
The technology used by educators has permanently shifted the conversation on how we provide the best athletic training education, just as the technology used by athletic trainers has shifted the conversation on how we can provide the best patient care.
At the University of Idaho, we’ve revolutionized athletic training education with our hybrid online educational model. On-campus, our partnership with WWAMI allows our students to use state-of-the-art equipment and training facilities, everything from hand-held ultrasound scanners to the cutting-edge anatomy training lab, to mock patient rooms with built-in cameras that allow students to record their training and evaluation sessions to replay and learn from.
Athletic training has always been defined by the technology we use to help physically active individuals prevent and recover from injuries. As the field shifts and new technologies are introduced, we can’t wait to see how it evolves to further improve patient care.