Medical professionals talk with Aiken County school board about need for athletic trainers

Mar. 27—Medical professionals spoke at an Aiken County Board of Education meeting Tuesday night on the topic of high school sports safety, specifically to encourage board members to consider the need for athletic trainers during upcoming conversations about budget priorities.

One of these was Dr. Joshua Pniewski, a physical therapist with Palmetto Motion, a local physical therapy clinic.

Pniewski said that the implementation of these sports health professionals will "improve communication and oversight on the care delivered to our student athletes."

He also suggested that a lack of athletic trainers in the district may discourage other schools from engaging in sports events: "Anecdotally, non-district school competition will decrease. I have had parents and coaches from other districts say that if there is not athletic trainer coverage, they will seek games elsewhere."

Echoing him was Dr. John Tiffany from Tiffany Pediatrics in Aiken, who said that athletic trainers are vital in ensuring that student athletes are at peak performance, not only on the field but also in the classroom.

"We do need athletic trainers in our school," he said. "They are very, very, very important. ... The athletic trainers work to make sure the athletes have a full strength, cardio and flexibility program for their specific sport. So, each sport has a different need and those athletic trainers can help with each of those needs."

Tiffany also highlighted the athletic trainer's role in helping students receive appropriate rest, nutrition and hydration, all elements that contribute to injury prevention.

"We know that injuries can be prevented if athletic trainers are there helping," he said.

Board Chairman Cam Nuessle echoed those sentiments.

"I think it's important that we strive to have athletic trainers in our high schools," he said. "We already try to provide athletic trainers in our high schools, but it's a contracted service and that model's not working anymore.

"I think some of our speakers are probably right, that we need to make those district employees with a competitive salary," he added. "It's a health and safety issue, not only can they treat injuries but more importantly they can prevent injuries."