PHOTO: Athletic trainer Emily Putney tapes up the foot of Monticello boys basketball player Jarrett Easton prior to the game against Anamosa Dec.14. (Photo by Pete Temple)
By Kim Brooks, Express Editor
For the past year and a half, Jones Regional Medical Center has partnered with the Monticello Community School District to provide an athletic trainer for the high school and middle school students.
Emily Putney came on board in October to work in the school roughly 20 hours a week. She meets with student athletes before practices, is on hand during area games/meets and works with the middle school kids during home events as well.
Putney is an employee of JRMC, leased by the school district. The idea was to provide the district with an athletic trainer for two years and evaluate how the program was doing afterwards to see if it would continue.
According to Eric Briesemeister, CEO of JRMC, it was a mutual idea between the hospital and school district.
“Back in 2011, Chris Anderson (Monticello schools superintendent) and I were talking about the need and were trying to figure out how to provide those services in Monticello,” stated Briesemeister. “Unfortunately, the school district had no budget for a trainer so we dropped it at that time.”
Several months later, Briesemeister said the son of one of their employees experienced a concussion during a Monticello football game. That brought the story back to light.
“That really brought things into focus for me. As a father of three boys, I would want them to have access to training services if they ever participated in a collision sport like football, so I revived the conversation with Chris (Anderson). We decided we would trial a program and provide part time training services to the school district for two years so the school board could evaluate the value of those services,” explained Briesemeister.
Anderson added, “The school did have an interest in pursuing having a trainer. As a coach at both Heritage High School in Conyers, Ga., and at North-Linn High School in Troy Mills, Iowa, I had experience in having a part time trainer available for student athletes. I found it beneficial to have at our disposal a trained professional whose skill level and knowledge regarding anatomy and physiology, as well as medicine exceeded my own.”
Putney received her four-year degree in athletic training from UNI.
“My high school didn’t have an athletic trainer,” she said as to her interest in the field. “I took a career aptitude test and knew I wanted to enter the healthcare field. I’ve always been an active person.”
Putney worked with UNI athletes for a while before joining the rodeo scene. One summer, she volunteered with traveling rodeos associated with the PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association) out of Dayton, Iowa, and a Waterloo high school rodeo team.
“It was a lot of fun!” Putney said of the experience.
Until Putney came on board, the high school only had a trainer coming once a week.
“They were used to someone only on Wednesdays,” she said. “Now I’m here all week long, Monday through Friday. The students know to come look for me before practices.”
As an athletic trainer, Putney was quick to point out the major difference between what she does and a physical/personal trainer.
“A lot of people confuse the two,” she said. “I’m not here to help athletes get into shape or help with lifting techniques. I do preventative care and rehab with athletes with injuries. I make sure they have a safe environment to practice in.”
Briesemeister said that JRMC wanted to offer this service in Monticello schools so “students and parents know they are being taken care of by highly qualified personnel who can assess, treat and recover from injuries.”
John Wagner, rehabilitation supervisor with JRMC said both the schools and hospital benefit from this partnership. “Monticello High School benefits by having the professional services of a licensed athletic trainer to consistently provide high quality care for the student athletes. It is important for both organizations to have a close relationship to ensure these kids receive proper education for treatment and prevention of sport-related injuries. Emily is able to provide consistency to develop relationships with parents, coaches and athletes to promote health and wellness.”
Putney initiated a concussion evaluation program when she started with the district. Since starting in October, it was too late to work with the football players on this program, those who probably benefit the most.
Basically, she meets with all of the student athletes before they start the season. She evaluates each one to see if they show any signs of head injuries or a concussion (headaches, sensitivity to light, etc.). This way, if someone does experience a concussion during the season, the symptoms are more obvious. Putney works with the students on five different objectives when evaluating them: biking, light jogging, sprinting, partial contact during practices and then full contact.
“We don’t want to push them too far too fast,” she explained.
The routine Putney follows is recommended by the CDC and Iowa High School Athletic Association’s “return to play after a concussion” regiment.
“I watch for any symptoms to come back,” she explained. “If I notice something, then the student goes back to day zero” and basically starts the whole program over again.
Tim Lambert, Monticello activities director, offered, “It has become even more important with such a huge focus being put on concussion evaluations and treatment. Emily was able to do pre-season testing with our athletes that she can use during contests or practices if she suspects a concussion has occurred. Once she determines if a concussion has taken place, the coaches can then follow proper steps with the athlete and their treatment.”
Putney tapes up the students, works with stretching and whatever else is needed.
“If there is an injury at a game, I’m there right away,” she said.
After a game or practice, she can ice someone’s sore foot or shoulder or prepare an ice bath in the whirlpool.
So far on the job, Putney said she hasn’t seen any major injuries outside of ankle sprains, bumps and bruises. She did work with a wrestling student who had a concussion.
“It’s nice because I can see the injury right away versus what the student thinks happened.”
Putney said she likes working with the schools and coaches.
“I like it here. The coaches are great to work with and the kids are good about coming to see me. They let me know what bothers them.”
As for whether the district will continue the program or not, Anderson offered, “I believe the program has been beneficial for our student athletes. Activities Director Tim Lambert and I need to study the benefits a bit more deeply before determining what recommendation we will make to the School Board regarding continuation of the program. Any input coaches, parents and student athletes may have will be appreciated.”
Briesemeister added, “It has been a great partnership for both JRMC and the Monticello school district.”
Lambert said, “JRMC has been very generous providing us with this service, and we all appreciate their work with us very much.”