Articles

Athletic trainers being redeployed to front lines of coronavirus pandemic

by Chris Renkel & Stephanie Kuzydym / WKRC

Tuesday, April 14th 2020

https://local12.com/news/investigates/athletes-at-risk/athletic-trainers-being-redeployed-to-frontlines-of-coronavirus-pandemic-cincinnati

CINCINNATI (WKRC) – High school stadiums are silent.

No practice.

No games.

No championships to compete for.

Coaches are at home instead of the sidelines. But athletic trainers have found a new field: as the frontline workers of COVID-19.

A typical day for Ken Rushford used to start out in the afternoon in his training room.

“Normally, I’d be working at St. Xavier High School with the athletes there,” Rushford said. “Since the COVID virus has been around, Tri-Health has deployed us to other settings to assist the patients out there.”

Athletic trainers have been retrained and redeployed to new sites during the height of the pandemic. They're not alone. Physical therapists, nurse practitioners and other health care professionals have also been sent to the frontlines.

Taking temperatures, checking blood pressure, taking pulses: the skills all transferred over to helping during the response to coronavirus. Their jobs now consist of providing physical therapy, screening patients, even administering coronavirus tests.

“Athletic trainers are more...than the men and women that get the towels, that get the water, that get the Gatorade and tape ankles,” Rushford said. “We can be out in the general population and do just about anything else the health care providers can do.”

They traded the adrenaline of a basketball game for the stress of the deadly virus.

“The transition from adrenaline on the field to protecting our own families has been a difficult transition,” Rushford said. “It’s been a huge adjustment for us.”

“We’re not just a one-trick pony,” Chris Bonnell said.

Bonnell used to spend his days also in his Sycamore High athletic training room, wiping down training tables, evaluating his athletes and getting them back into the game. Now, he’s working in the physical therapy clinic with senior citizens through telemedicine to keep them moving.

“Instead of the young kids trying to get back in two or three days, these are people that we’re trying to get back to active, daily normal life so they can go garden or walk around at the park or walk their dog,” Bonnell said. “It’s those goals instead of getting someone so they can be back in at a game on Friday night.”

As for their athletes? They talk with them regularly. Some are even going through physical therapy themselves.

But most?

“The majority of the kids have no idea what’s going on with what we’re doing these days,” Bonnell said.

“They probably think I’m doing vacation,” Rushford said.

Coronavirus sends Licking Heights athletic trainers into new role

Kurt Snyder, Newark Advocate / Published 11:52 a.m. ET April 6, 2020

https://www.newarkadvocate.com/story/sports/local/pataskala/2020/04/06/coronavirus-sends-licking-heights-athletic-trainers-into-new-role/5091512002/

COLUMBUS - When Eric Bortmas’ more than two decades as an athletic trainer was put on hold, it did not take him long to put his skills to use.

Bortmas, who has been full-time at Licking Heights since 2006, and Tabby Stein, who began serving Heights this school year, have been volunteering at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center since the coronavirus began to reach and spread across central Ohio.

"We quickly were sent e-mails about volunteering and opportunities to help with the situation because we were available,” Bortmas said. “We were one of the first couple people to sign up because we were both able to get several slots for the first round. Now, it kind of snowballed to where we’re checking our emails every day to see what other opportunities are out there.”

Governor Mike DeWine initially closed schools for three weeks on March 12, and the Ohio High School Athletic Association quickly postponed the remaining winter sports state tournaments and the beginning of spring sports. Suddenly, athletic trainers were away from their facilities and with just electronic communication available for their athletes.

For Stein, whose first job at a school is at Licking Heights Central Middle School after Ohio State received the athletic training contract last year, it threw an unexpected curve ball early in her career.

"It was definitely kind of a shock, but I am always eager to learn and do new things,” Stein said. “I love the healthcare system, so being able to help people any way I can is a great thing for me. I know it’s a tough time, so I hope my smiling and positive attitude can help their day be a little better.”

Licking Heights athletic trainers Eric Bortmas, pictured, and Tabby Stein are assisting with coronavirus screenings at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center.

Licking Heights athletic trainers Eric Bortmas, pictured, and Tabby Stein are assisting with coronavirus screenings at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center. (Photo: Ohio State University)

Bortmas and Stein spend most of their time at screening stations, checking patients’ health and directing them where to go when they are cleared to enter the facility.

Also volunteering as a part of their affiliation with Ohio State are Granville’s Brei Miller and Steve Rose. In addition, the National Athletic Trainers' Association urged their membership to volunteer in the same way through the Go4Ellis program.

Bortmas said their role has been key to act as a middle man between concerned patients and a medical staff that is under constant pressure.

"It's been a nice interaction. About 99% of the people that have come through have been understanding of what we are doing and appreciative of it," Bortmas said. "The workers in the hospital behind us are appreciative, too, because we are that stopgap between the public and their work space, making sure everyone is cleared to come into the hospital and not expose anyone else."

Stein, who graduated from the University of Akron in 2016, will add another line to her resume. She has used an unprecedented medical event to continue to learn and grow.

The Advocate is making all COVID-19 coverage available for free to our readers. Please consider supporting local journalism by subscribing to The Advocate at offers.newarkadvocate.com.

This will be great experience for working with young athletes and parents, who might be going through a serious injury and extensive rehabilitation for the first time.

“It’s helped us learn to be more versatile and think on our toes because that’s how sports are going to happen,” Stein said. “It also helps with patient experience. You learn how to judge people’s personalities, so you know how to help them best.”

Bortmas has never far away from the school even during summer vacation, monitoring June workouts or returning in August to oversee fall practices.

Bortmas, who has a close relationship with many of Heights’ athletes and has developed a large student-aide program, said he is most concerned for the mental state of students, who continue to be cooped up at home and have limited ability to interact with friends.

"Twenty-two years in and just having your ties being broken all of a sudden, it is all new territory for me,” Bortmas said. “It is a little unsettling, and I really do miss the kids and the atmosphere of it all. I was looking forward to do what baseball and softball could do this spring and boys volleyball and track, too.”

With DeWine’s decision March 30 to extend the school closure at least through April, a return to school will have to wait. For now, Bortmas is doing what he has been called to do, and many of his colleagues in the field have followed suit.

“One of the things I said is, ‘Our profession is all about let’s get it done.’ It might not always be in our job description, but we are flexible and compatible enough in most positions,” he said. “We are just trying to step up and fill the gaps where we can.”

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