Injuries can occur at any moment in sports, whether it's the big play that wins a game or a simple drill the first day of practice.
In the past, Vandalia Community High School's on-site medical staff has been somewhat limited. There's always an ambulance and EMT staff at football games, but for every day at practice or at volleyball or tennis matches, the only medical staff is the coach or maybe a parent helping out.
However, this school year, VCHS will have a full-time athletic trainer at every football practice and game, as well as at a majority of other home events and practices.
Nathan Schwartzkopf, an athletic trainer at Greenville Regional Hospital, will be on campus to treat, prevent and diagnose chronic and acute injuries, and hopefully save families some money and help in the recovery of injured student-athletes.
"I think it's tremendous," Vandalia athletic director Kevin Jackson said. "I know our coaches are excited about it."
For a number of years, Greenville Hospital has provided athletic trainers to Greenville College and Greenville High School. This year, they reached out to Vandalia, and the offer was too good to pass up.
"It comes at no cost to the district, as far as providing a trainer," Jackson said. "Schwartzkopf will be here on a daily basis, at a central location. Primarily, he'll be at football practice. Obviously, it's the largest contact sport we have, but he will be here in the fall for all the other sports as well."
Schwartzkopf will also travel with the basketball team in the winter.
"If we have an individual here, families don't have to go to the doctor," Jackson said. "An athletic trainer is an athletic trainer. He's here to help kids play, so that if we do have an injury, we're not sitting out for weeks at a time."
Jackson feels that having an athletic trainer on-site is what is best for the athletes. He said the school is not trying to take business away from Vandalia, it's just trying to do right by the student-athletes and their families.
"We're just trying to provide a service to our athletes and families, and take care of them as well as we can," Jackson said.
Should an athlete suffer an injury that requires a visit to the hospital, they are not required to go to Greenville Hospital for treatment.
Greenville Hospital will be sending out an informational packet to athletes and their families, explaining the roles of athletic trainers and what they can provide.
Athletes and their parents will need to sign a release form stating that the ATC (athletic trainer) can provide treatment. The ATC will also have a medical emergency information sheet on each athlete that will provide the trainer with any health-related issues the athlete my already have (allergies to medicine, previous injuries, etc.).
If an athlete is injured in practice or a game, a sheet will be sent home explaining the injury, recommending follow-up care and/or making a referral to a physician, if needed.
Schwartzkopf is a 2010 graduate of Illinois State University and a 2005 graduate of Hillsboro High School. He played football, baseball and basketball at Hillsboro, and played football for two years at Blackburn College before transferring to ISU.
Last month, Schwartzkopf worked at a number of football camps, so he is more than ready heading into the season.
VCHS has set up a treatment room for him in one of the unused locker rooms in the high school.
For more information about Schwartzkopf and what his role as the athletic trainer will be, athletes and parents should be on the lookout for the informational packet from Greenville Regional Hospital.