Athletic trainers practice procedures to ensure student-athlete safety

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Just like the athletes, the athletic trainers must be at their best.

Practice helps them do that.

"We're preparing for the worst-case scenario and hopefully that doesn't happen," said Mike Longhofer, the head athletic trainer for Washburn University football.

The University's head athletic trainer, Steve Ice, agrees.

"If we're getting our steps early, and doing the things (we need to do), we're gonna be prepared to take care of anybody that goes down," Ice said. "We want to make sure that each of us are doing the same thing, in the same way, so therefore fewer mistakes."

The sports medicine team at Washburn University goes through their paces when the fields are still empty because even every practice requires their "A" game.

"Games are every day for us - more injuries happen in practice than games," Longhofer said.

The practices review procedures, down to the basics.

"How to remove that clothing, how to remove that shoulder pad to get them cooled down is what we're looking for," Ice said. "Those are the kind of things that we all want to be on the same page for, so that's why we practice."

The rehearsals also are part of new recommendations the NCAA issued in May for preventing catastrophic injury and death. They include an extensive checklist for creating and practicing emergency action plans for numerous situations, and guidelines for acclimating and conditioning in order to prevent, identify, and treat heat-related illness. They include things like plans specific to each sports venue, and having cold-water immersion tubs readily available.

"A lot of the changes with the new guidelines talk about collaboration," said Dr. Ryan Tomlins of Cotton O'Neil Sports Medicine.

Washburn University works with Tomlins and other Stormont Vail sports medicine doctors to create their emergency action plans.

"Having them involved is vital," Ice said. "We don't exist without their input."

"They're good at a lot of things I'm not good at and vice versa," Tomlins said, "so when we work together as a unit, I think it's better for the student athletes."

The end goal is ensuring they execute their game plan, so athletes can get back on the field - to execute their's.

"I hope that parents who send their kids here can appreciate that as well - to know that their student athlete will be in good hands, and we're ready for the challenge if it presents itself," Tomlins said.

The NCAA guidelines also address education for coaches, and having strength and conditioning coaches supervised by sports medicine staff rather than team coaches.

To read the full list of NCAA recommendations for preventing catastrophic injury and death, click here.

You can find the checklist .