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USF is training on-field first responders

The program has certified athletic trainers assigned to 10 high schools in Hillsborough.

By JOEL POILEY Times Correspondent
Published October 12, 2007


Players were unraveling from the opening kickoff scrum, but Freedom High's Joe Daniels remained on the ground.

That signaled Michele McCoy's call to action.

A trainer who works for the SMART Institute, an arm of the Department of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine at the University of South Florida, McCoy quickly assessed Daniels' shoulder injury. After helping him to the sideline, she tested his range of motion and strength while looking for any potential ligament or bone damage.

A certified athletic trainer since graduating from Appalachian State University in 1993, McCoy received her master's degree from San Diego State in sports psychology.

She is assigned to Freedom full time, with an office at the school. On this night, she traveled with the football team for its game at Gaither and was at the ready when Daniels recoiled on the ground in pain thinking his shoulder had popped out.

Turns out Daniels left the field under his own power and later returned to action. But that illustrated the need for McCoy and other certified athletic trainers working full time at 10 high schools throughout Hillsborough County.

The USF College of Medicine was given a $3.5-million grant to restart the Orthopaedics Department last year. From that, the Sports Medicine and Athletic Related Trauma Institute (SMART) was born.

Dean Stephen Klasko then decided to start a community sports safety initiative with high schools, the only one of its kind in the state.

Besides Freedom and Gaither, other schools with a full-time trainer are Blake, Plant City, Durant, Bloomingdale, Alonso, Lennard, Brandon and Riverview.

For trainers like McCoy and the schools where they work, it's a win-win for all involved, particularly since USF provides all equipment and funding.

"This is where there is the most need for us, with the kids," McCoy said. "Plus, I just love Friday night lights (high school football), so it was a good fit."

McCoy started with USF in February and was assigned to Freedom replacing Barbara Morris, who was promoted to assistant program director.

McCoy stays each day until the last varsity and junior varsity event is finished. She receives help from USF students in the school's athletic training program who do their clinical rotations at school sporting events. Team physicians are always on hand at games as well.

"A lot of the burden was on the coaches to be the primary caregiver and first responders," McCoy said. "Having us on the sideline allows the coaches to do their job more effectively and focus on their coaching because they know that we're handling all of the medical aspects."

At the ready

Armed with AEDs (automatic external defibrillators) and muscle stimulator units on the sideline, along with crutches, splints and larger items all provided free of charge to the school, McCoy said she and her assistants are prepared to handle catastrophic injuries such as the cervical spine injury that occurred to Buffalo's Kevin Everett in the first week of the NFL season.

"Short of someone actually dying on the field from a concussion or second impact, a cervical spine injury is a catastrophic injury that we are all prepared to deal with," McCoy said. "The other trainer from Gaither and I have taken a course together and we've already spoken to the paramedics that are here and we have a protocol that we will follow in that situation.

"You make sure you have a good action plan in place. My administrators know what they're doing as far as dealing with parents in the stands, things like that. You have a great plan and just hope you never need it."

Everett continues to regain feeling in his arms and legs after surgery. Doctors said he will probably walk again, mainly because of the medical care he received on the field immediately after his injury.

McCoy was working in Miami for the U.S. Tennis Association. But she wanted to return to the Tampa Bay area and jumped at the opportunity when she saw what USF was doing with high schools.

She said seeing the impact of her work at her school on a daily basis is gratifying

"When I was in San Diego, a kid who was our stating running back blew out his ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), MCL (medial collateral ligament), his PCL (posterior cruciate ligament and his medial (and) lateral meniscus (of the knee)," McCoy recalled. "He planted to cut to dive into the end zone and he got hit and tore everything. He wasn't able to go to college without a football scholarship. He was trying to be the first one in his family to go to college.

"So through the clinic I was working for, and mostly me being at the school everyday, we were able to rehab him and he was running three months later and he played his senior season and got a full scholarship to Colorado State University.

"To have an influence on a kid on daily basis is very important. Sometimes they'll say they have a cough, or an itch, and they don't know what it is or what it means, and it helps knowing they can bounce ideas off of another adult. We're in a position to do a lot of educating. Those are the things people don't see. They only see us when we run on the field.

"So if we can get into the community and educate parents, players and coaches, that's what the SMART Institute is about."

In San Diego, McCoy worked with students at the school who were interested in athletic training as a possible career. She hopes to do the same at Freedom as she gets more entrenched.

Her counterpart on Gaither's sideline, 26-year-old Victoria Kean, also made a difference this year at her school, though not on the field.

A student in gym class several weeks ago reported chest pains. The school nurse brought him into Kean's training room where she starting emergency care and he later had surgery on his heart.

"They said that it would've been sudden cardiac death, and that having someone there may have saved his life," said Kean, who graduated from USF in 2004 and began working for the Smart Institute in December of 2006.

"The kids and parents are so appreciate. The kids are like younger brothers. When I came back in April, (Gaither's star running back) Jarvis Giles came running down the hall and gave me a big hug and said 'I'm so happy you're back.' "

McCoy said USF wants to grow the program into more schools and counties in the bay area.

"We want to provide as much quality service as we can because we believe we're making a difference," she said.

[Last modified October 11, 2007, 08:06:28]

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