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Other Duties as Assigned: UC Health Athletic Trainers Role in a Pandemic

Mar. 14, 2021

Athletic training goes well beyond the care of athletes. Athletic trainers are responsible for emergency care, as well as injury prevention, evaluation, treatment and rehabilitation, and coordination of overall well-being of all patient types.


Patients can have comfort in knowing that all aspects of their orthopaedic care and treatment can be found within one UC Health team. Embedded within UC Health Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, our certified athletic trainers are educated not only in sports medicine, but in musculoskeletal conditions, as well as providing extensive experience, education and training to care for patients with a broad spectrum of musculoskeletal conditions and injuries.

Meet Our Athletic Trainers

Meet UC Health’s certified athletic trainers: Makayla Black, Theresa Lynch and Jess Mann.

This trio not only share job titles but, more importantly, a genuine passion for helping patients find hope during some of the most defeating times of their lives.

Their Roles Defined…Pre-Pandemic

Jess Mann, AT, ATC, is a Columbus, Ohio native and 13-year athletic training veteran who has worked in both non-traditional and traditional athletic training settings, including time coordinating concussion-related research and education programs within the Cincinnati community.

“We are versatile and able to adapt in order to take care of others in various settings, such as occupational health, the military, hospitals and outpatient clinics, and the performing arts to name a few,” said Jess.

While most people view athletic trainers as the ones who run onto the court when someone is hurt, many don’t realize the hours that people like Jess put in to condition the patient, rehabbing their injury and coordinating the patient’s overall medical care.

“In addition to physical care, sometimes we also have to be a confidant to the patient, especially when someone is dealing with the reality of a season-ending injury,” said Theresa Lynch, AT, ATC.

Theresa knew by her junior year of high school she wanted to stay involved in athletics in order to help athletes train, enhance their sports performance and to help them overcome injury.

UC Health athletic trainers work alongside UC Health Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine physicians to prevent patients from encountering injury and related medical conditions during sports and physical activity.

Makayla Black, AT, ATC, chose to work at UC Health to “work with some of the best doctors” in Greater Cincinnati.

Makayla knew very early on in her exercise science education that she wanted to become a certified athletic trainer. After her schooling, she joined the U.S. Army Reserve and UC Health Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine in 2019.

Other Duties as Assigned...In A Pandemic

Pre-pandemic, you would have found Makayla, Jess and Theresa in clinic guiding patients through their appointments, applying braces, casts and splints, and providing treatment education to athletes, patients and caregivers. And outside of clinic, they were managing sports physicals, preparing supplies and equipment, and staffing some of Cincinnati’s major events like the Flying Pig Marathon.

But the impact of COVID-19 was felt immediately with all athletics being cancelled indefinitely. However, it didn’t take long for UC Health’s athletic trainers to find their new roles.

“One of the last lines in most job descriptions is all other duties as assigned,” said Jess. “Everything that happened during the past year falls into that category.”

Large-Scale Medical Event Planning

Aside from taking regular inventory on personal protective equipment (PPE), physician supplies and medication for clinic, athletic trainers, like Jess, participated in numerous meetings to develop and implement plans to recruit area athletic trainers and inform them on anticipated duties at the Duke Energy Convention Center, the overflow care site that was on standby if local hospitals reached their capacities.

It was in those discussions where athletic trainers provided their expertise in healthcare and experience in organizing medical teams for large athletic events to take care of patients, but now, the preparation would be for a different type of patient.

COVID-19 Test Administrator

After numerous months, when some athletics events were phased back in, our athletic trainers found themselves ditching their sports attire and “gowning up” to collect and log athletes’ PCR and antigen test specimens.

A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is the recommended standard in detecting COVID-19. The test is able to detect the virus’ genetic material before the infection even presents itself, even if someone is asymptomatic (has no symptoms). A sample is collected by swabbing the patient’s nose using a nasal swab and then is sent to a lab for testing.

An antigen, or rapid test, also detects the virus but produces results in less than 30 minutes. However, the antigen tests are typically less sensitive than PCR tests — making them less accurate.

Both tests can be done virtually anywhere, and generally produce results within two to three days. 

When an athlete tests positive, it’s our athletic trainers’ role to ensure next steps go smoothly from a medical standpoint, including scheduling and registering the patient’s pre- and post-isolation evaluations with one of our three team physicians, ordering labs, medications, additional testing, CTs, MRIs, specialist appointments and more.

Some of these duties are not atypical of our athletic trainers’ daily routine, but they now occur more frequently with even more pressure than before to ensure the patient recovers quickly and the medical team around them remains healthy.

Educators

For non-athletes, orthopaedic care didn’t completely stop.

Along with their normal job functions that take place within an orthopaedic & sports medicine clinic, Makayla, Jess and Theresa often found themselves providing education and guidance to patients about COVID-19.

From helping to correct misinformation about the virus, describing quarantine versus isolation, to explaining contract tracing and the rationale behind the many new social and medical guidelines, their roles extended beyond their administrative duties and clinical care.

The One ‘Constant’ in a Time of Change

Plans developed to navigate through a pandemic have been created, scrapped and created again in order to remain compliant with the ever-changing COVID-19 safety guidelines.

Today, with testing more broadly available and vaccines rolling out, planning for patients’ and athletes’ “new normal” is becoming a smoother process each and every day. Our experts are critically thinking about how to safely bring athletes back, how to resume sports in an ongoing pandemic and, of course, how to keep themselves safe.

Despite all of the pivoting and fulfilling their “other duties as assigned,” one thing that has remained constant is their collective passion and dedication to getting their patients back on courts and in the stands.