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Just in time for back-to-school athletics, at its August 14 work session, the Newton County Board of Education approved by 5-0 vote the adoption of a partnership with Newton Medical Center to provide a certified athletic trainer in each high school. Newton Medical president Jim Weadick approached school district administrators about providing the program free of charge to Newton County School System.

According to NCSS Deputy Superintendent Dr. Dennis Carpenter, the plan calls for three full-time, certified athletic trainers to provide medical coverage for sports practices, games and tournaments. Dr. Renee’ Riley of Georgia Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Covington will serve as the team physician for Newton County School System. Her office will be responsible for hiring the three trainers.

Carpenter stressed that the athletic trainers will be available for all high school athletics—not just football—as each athletic trainer will be assigned to a school full-time throughout the school year.

“The trainer will be on campus for all practices,” said Carpenter. “If the trainer is at football practice and there is a problem on the softball field, someone can contact the trainer and he or she can immediately respond to the softball field.”

The athletic trainers will perform treatments within their scope of practice to help athletes return to play as soon as possible and will also perform evaluations of athletes who sustain injuries. The trainer will make necessary decisions regarding the need for treatment, evaluation by a physician, and return to play based on that evaluation. If the certified athletic trainer decides that the athlete needs further evaluation before returning to play, the office of Georgia Orthopedics and Sports Medicine will evaluate the athlete as soon as possible—usually within 24 hours, so the athlete can be back to sports in a timely fashion if his/her condition allows.

Carpenter noted that there is no obligation for the athlete to be treated by Dr. Riley although there are several advantages to using the team physician, including an open line of communication between the trainer and Dr. Riley regarding the injured athlete, the treatment required and return to play time. This line of communication allows coaches to be aware of these critical issues so they can plan accordingly.

Each school’s athletic trainer will be present at each football game—both home and away. In addition, Dr. Riley indicated that she and/or her physician’s assistant will also be on the sidelines at most home and some away games.

Future components of the plan include the implementation of an injury clinic after the games either on Friday night or Saturday morning to evaluate injuries sustained during the week’s games. This is to allow early treatment in an attempt to get athletes back to the field of play.

“The health and safety of our students is a number one priority,” said NCSS Superintendent Gary Mathews. “An athletic trainer program is much needed and long overdue so it goes without saying that we appreciate Mr. Weadick and Dr. Riley for offering this program to our district free of charge. This gesture is indicative of the support Newton Medical has provided our district over the years. Our local hospital is definitely an outstanding partner in education.”

For more information, contact Ms. Sherri Davis-Viniard, Director of Public Relations for Newton County Schools at davis-viniard.sherri@newton.k12.ga.us.