Skip to main content
Skip to footer

Sports medicine renaissance requires thoughtful data and change management strategies

By Nate Hogan

The field of sports medicine is in a state of Renaissance. With far-reaching changes similar to that of the clinical world, the sports medicine industry needs to evolve to keep pace. There are a several ways for that change to be realized.

HealtheAthlete, a leading electronic athlete health management system, seeks to explore new opportunities in the field of sports medicine by managing and improving the everyday health for all athletes to ultimately achieve better long-term performance and health outcomes.

There is recognition that athletic trainers are in fact clinical providers, and as a result, have needs that are similar to that of a provider in the traditional hospital and clinic space. Ultimately, both seek to provide the best medical care for their patients for the best health outcomes. Today it is imperative that this recognition spread beyond the Certified Athletic Trainers (ATC) community and their representative associations and into the highest levels of the sporting organizations that they serve as well as the broader health care community.

For athletic trainers, the focus for each athlete is to assess and treat them with an individualized plan that allows them to return to play at or above their previous level of performance. But as clinical providers, their mission goes beyond a commitment to returning the athlete to the field, and to ensuring that the athlete receives the best possible standard of care.

A change in data management and accessibility strategies is critical to the success of both the profession and athletes themselves. Access to large amounts of data is only the beginning. Data is meaningless if it doesn’t tell a correlated story of health and performance of an athlete over time.

The health care industry is undergoing a transformation. Big data, analytics, and a higher order understanding of how to manage populations and individuals has given us the tools to prevent and predict illness, and helped us realize our true mission – managing and empowering individuals to remain healthy. This paradigm has always been extremely relevant for the sports medicine world, where statistics and the economies of performance place undue pressures on the management of health. Knowing and understanding the granularities of health care management in the sporting world means finding new ways to analyze, predict and prevent.

Sophisticated data analytics allows the perception of the athletic trainer’s recommendations to move from symptom-focused feedback on an athlete’s condition to more data driven and holistic feedback, further elevating the value of their role to the organization.

This year, the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) passed legislation that empowers athletic trainers and team physicians to have the final authority regarding student athletes returning to play following an injury. To see an organization like the NCAA pass such legislation is a reflection of change – change where the athlete remains at the center while being treated by a coordinated group of sports medicine professionals. This ruling intends to alleviate some of the pressure placed on athletic trainers to return an athlete to play prematurely. Many within the health and sports medicine industry would like to see similar mandates enacted at the high school and professional levels.

Head Athletic Trainer for North Carolina State University’s men’s basketball team, Ryan Holleman said that

“While it’s always been our focus, keeping the athlete at the center of care is in everyone’s best interest. With easy access to large amounts of analytical information, we can determine the best direction of treatment and rehabilitation. Through time, we can start to assimilate trends and put together action plans based on the data. Each athlete’s body reacts to treatment differently and it’s incredible to assemble a course of action based on data and the athlete.”

On a professional sports level, Natalie Akula, who is the player care coordinator for Major League Soccer, echoed those thoughts:

“With a click of a button, I can see how many hamstring injuries we’ve had or who has the most injuries. Easy access to data speaks volumes. We need to see the discrepancies between the teams, because those are the touchpoints we get asked about. Currently we have the capability to pull that data, and when you add in sophisticated analytics, the correlations between health and performance become evident.”

Time and resources consistently elude these care practitioners. Technology has continued to be the answer for these constraints and at HealtheAthlete we continue to push with innovation to meet these needs. We’ve long held true the belief that our solution provides the means to enact the athletic trainer’s true mission – helping those athletes on the bench return to play without compromising long-term health outcomes.

Industry change doesn’t stop at creating a good user experience and a seamless operation. It requires us as partners to proactively question whether our clients are set up for success organizationally and operationally. As the field of sports medicine grows and as athletic trainers and their organizations evolve and embrace technology and big data analytics, we can usher in a new era in the training room. An era where we cooperatively set new precedents for health innovation. Working as a cohesive team, HealtheAthlete and our clients can bring change to the entire sports industry and positively impact the lives of the athletes we serve.