Choose the Right Sports Medicine Expert

By Christina Eyers, Ed.D., AT, ATC
Henry Ford Health

November 15, 2022

If you're an athlete, chances are you'll require specialized care from a health professional during your career.

Henry Ford Health logoConfused about the differences between athletic trainers, sports medicine physicians and exercise physiologists, among other experts? You're not alone!

Each of these professionals has different levels of training, expertise and certifications, but the care they provide often overlaps. That's one reason why they often work together.

Sports Professionals Defined

Caring for athletes isn't always clear-cut. In fact, most athletes require a full team of professionals working in concert to stay at the top of their game. Yet confusion remains about which professionals you need to see for training, injury prevention, and recovery and treatment after an injury.

Each type of professional has its own set of experience, training and certifications. Here’s how they measure up:

· Sports medicine doctor: Sports medicine physicians are typically trained in orthopedic surgery, primary care or emergency medicine. These professionals have medical degrees as well as specialized training in sports medicine, including the prevention and treatment of injury. In addition to caring for conditions ranging from concussion to head colds, sports medicine physicians also focus on helping people return to sports safely and effectively after illness or injury.

· Athletic trainer: Athletic trainers take care of athletes from prevention through rehabilitation. In collaboration with a physician, these professionals offer insights that help minimize risk and prevent injuries. They evaluate athletes and provide immediate care and treatment, sometimes even on the sidelines. They also provide rehabilitation and reconditioning after an injury or illness.

· Exercise physiologist: Exercise physiologists study the effect of exercise on the muscular, cardiovascular, and sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. They examine functional capacity and strength due to endurance training or strength training. These professionals may also test athletes for VO2max (your oxygen volume while training) and body composition (the ratio of fatty mass to lean mass).

· Physical medicine and rehab physician: These professionals treat a variety of medical conditions that affect the brain, spinal cord, nerves, bones, joints, ligaments, muscles and tendons. They take the whole body into account to pinpoint problems and enhance performance without surgery.

· Physical therapist: Physical therapists diagnose and treat individuals of all ages with conditions that limit their ability to move and perform daily activities.

Other Specialized Professionals Who Care for Athletes

In addition to the health care professionals described above, athletes may meet with a host of experts, including:

· Nurses and medical assistants
· Occupational therapists
· Cardiologists
· Neurologists
· Behavioral health specialists
· Dietitians
· Complementary medical practitioners, such as acupuncturists and chiropractors

None of these individuals are "fitness professionals," a term nearly anyone can use to describe a range of professional activities. Rather, these sports medicine experts are part of a comprehensive team that includes at least one physician. They are each licensed by the state to provide specialized care to athletes.

Personal trainers, on the other hand, focus on helping people find their way around the gym, hold them accountable to achieve their goals and help new exercisers and seasoned fitness enthusiasts stick to a workout regimen.

If you're an athlete, you need a team of health professionals who can provide comprehensive care to reach your highest potential. 

Christina Eyers, Ed.D., AT, ATC, is the Director of Athletic Training & Community Outreach with Henry Ford Sports Medicine.

Want to learn more? Henry Ford Health System sports medicine experts are treating the whole athlete, in a whole new way. From nutrition to neurology, and from injury prevention to treatment of sports-related conditions, they can give your athlete a unique game plan.

Visit henryford.com/sports or call (313) 972-4216 for an appointment within 24 business hours.

Bloomingdale Trainer Performing Invaluable Role in Keeping Athletes Playing

By Pam Shebest
Special for MHSAA.com

November 22, 2022

BLOOMINGDALE — If Scott Allison looks bored during one of Bloomingdale’s sporting events, that is a good thing.

Southwest Corridor“Trainers like to be behind the scenes and in the shadows,” the certified athletic trainer said. “We’re only needed in emergencies.

“It’s one of those jobs that if we’re sitting around looking bored, then things are going well.”

But if an athlete goes down with an injury, Allison is quick to run onto the court or field.

In his first year at Bloomingdale, he has found that working with middle and high school students is a lot different than his previous work with the minor-league hockey Kalamazoo Wings.

Treating the hockey team, with whom he spent much of his 22 years, “There was a lot of traumatic stuff like lacerations or deep contusions, overuse injuries like hip flexors or core injuries or broken bones.

“Everything’s acute and fast. It’s a different animal. In hockey, they’re all pro athletes so they know their bodies really well.”

However, high school and middle school athletes are still in a growing phase.

“These kids don’t really know what’s going on a lot of times, so it’s a lot more education on what’s happening,” Allison said.

“Is it an injury, or is it just soreness? You get a lot of kids that don’t understand the difference between aches and pains or an injury. We see a lot of ankle sprains or shin splints because they’re just developing. They’re in that awkward range where their bodies try to grow too fast.”

Bloomingdale athletic director Jason Hayes, left, and assistant varsity football coach Lance Flynn.Allison is the Cardinals’ first certified athletic trainer, a new position for which athletic director Jason Hayes campaigned.

“What we notice is that if a kid’s injured, they’re out a lot less if you have a trainer because it speeds up recovery time,” said Hayes, who also coaches varsity football and is an assistant wrestling coach. “It’s like having a built-in physical therapist on your staff, too.”

Studies support Hayes’ statements.

According to information from The Sports Institute at University of Washington, “‘The athletic trainers know the athletes,” says Stan Herring, M.D., cofounder of The Sports Institute at (University of Washington) Medicine and a team physician for the Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Mariners. “They see the athletes frequently, if not every day. They know when something is wrong. They are medical professionals who evaluate, treat and rehabilitate athletes.’”

The article continued: “Three recent studies suggest that athletic trainers are linked to significant improvements in the diagnosis of concussion in young athletes and significant reductions in ‘time-loss’ injuries that require athletes to take time away from sports.”

Allison sees himself as a teacher as well as a trainer.

“We see a lot more strains or growth issues,” he said. “A lot of it is maintenance and teaching kids what’s going on with their bodies or what they need to do to change things.”

He also meets with parents and coaches to talk about the best way to prevent injuries.

Allison’s day begins about 1:30 or 2 p.m., giving athletes a chance to talk with him before practices or games.

During the action, he always has his first aid backpack filled with the basics: air splints for fractures or dislocations, AED, EpiPens, and bench kits (with taping and bandaging supplies, splints, gauze, ACE wraps, ice bags, latex gloves and other basic first aid supplies.)

He travels with the teams when they are involved in high-impact sports, such as football, and many times he is also called to treat an opposing player if that team has no trainer.

Allison packs his bag for another full afternoon. Allison is a perfect fit with Bloomingdale, Hayes said.

His wife, Kirsten, coached the Cardinals girls basketball team for seven years. His daughter Emma, now at Glen Oaks Community College, graduated from there, and his daughter Bailey is an eighth grader.

“We are a very lucky town,” Hayes said. “We had Doc (Robert) Stevens, who had been volunteering as our athletic trainer for 15 years. He’s just aging out.

“About a year ago, he came to me and said that it was his last year. Scott has 22 years experience, and he has relationships here. To me, it was a no-brainer.”

Assistant varsity football coach Lance Flynn, who also coaches the middle school football team, saw Allison in action during competition in the fall.

“First quarter in a middle school football game, a kid broke his arm,” Flynn said. “My own son, Ryder, was on the varsity team and he sprained his AC socket and Scott took care of him.

“If something happens during a game, they can go see him and I don’t have to worry much because I know they’re in good hands.”

Allison’s affiliation with Bronson Sports Medicine is also a plus, the trainer said.

“With Bronson, we can offer a lot more and expedite getting in to see doctors or specialists if we need to,” he said. “We’re on the same system as the doctors, so we can diagnose and send notes to the doctors and they can send notes back to us.

“If there’s anybody we need to keep track of with the doctors, I can talk with the doctors and figure out how that’s going. If anybody needs to see me, they know I’m here early if they just want to come down to talk.”

Bronson also provides certified athletic trainers at 21 other southwest Michigan high schools: Brooke Vandepolder (Battle Creek Central), Lindsay Aarseth-Lindhorst (Climax-Scotts), Amanda Monsivaes (Comstock), Makenzie Hodgson (Delton Kellogg), Salvador Robles-Soriano (Gobles), Holly Ives (Richland Gull Lake), Katelyn Baker-Contreras (Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep), Lizzy Smith (Kalamazoo Central), Emma Beener (Kalamazoo Christian), Holly Sisson (Kalamazoo Loy Norrix), Nico Talentino (Mattawan), Aaron Eickhoff (Otsego), Quincey Powell (Parchment), Malorie Most (Paw Paw), Jessica Bakhuyzen (Plainwell), Lance LeTourneau (Portage Central), Janelle Currie (Portage Northern), Carrie Calhoun (Schoolcraft), Chelsea Harrison (South Haven), Alexis Walters (Three Rivers) and Natalie McClish (Vicksburg).

Pam ShebestPam Shebest served as a sportswriter at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1985-2009 after 11 years part-time with the Gazette while teaching French and English at White Pigeon High School. She can be reached at pamkzoo@aol.com with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Bloomingdale trainer Scott Allison has several tasks as he works to keep the school’s student-athletes healthy and pain-free. (Middle) Bloomingdale athletic director Jason Hayes, left, and assistant varsity football coach Lance Flynn. (Below) Allison packs his bag for another full afternoon. (Ankle-taping photo by Andreya Robinson; all other photos by Pam Shebest.)