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Concussions: Trainers valuable partners

Bob Bashaw isn’t trying to protect his job security when he says athletic trainers are an essential part of high school athletics.

Common sense dictates a similar conclusion.

“You kind of have to have it,” said Bashaw, a longtime physical therapist and certified athletic trainer in Pullman. “It’s one of those things where we’re trained to be able to see things that maybe coaches sometimes don’t see.”

That’s why Pullman High School athletic director Mike Davis says the school’s contract with Bashaw is worth every penny.

Bashaw, whom PHS has contracted since 1998, makes sure Pullman’s athletes have a trainer available every day after school, as well as during all home varsity events, plus road football games.

Davis said the school pays a little less than $12,000 per year – the job is put to bid every few years – to contract Bashaw’s services. In return, he and his assistant, Washington State graduate Yoko Jingi, work two to three hours each day after school in case they’re needed at a sports practice.

They’re also sometimes joined by interns from WSU, and can serve as mentors for interested high school students working on senior projects who intend to work in the field someday.

Bashaw says he typically works at PHS two days per week, and Jingi goes for the other three. This isn’t Bashaw’s day job – he mostly works as an independently contracted physical therapist. He’s a 1989 graduate of Eastern Washington’s physical therapy program, and used to work at ProFormance Physical Therapy in Pullman.

But he was always interested in the field of sports injuries, and so he eventually earned his athletic training certification. And even after leaving ProFormance recently, Bashaw maintained the contract for PHS athletic training, an agreement that runs through 2015.

Davis is glad he’s there.

“They make some decisions that aren’t always popular as trainers, but I think overall our folks all respect them,” Davis said. “We’re pleased with what they provide our school.”

Their contributions aren’t limited to on-field injuries. Bashaw also manages the school’s baseline concussion testing, provides weight management help for wrestlers, and has offered injury prevention programs in the past.

Without an athletic trainer on-site while athletes are practicing or playing, coaches – most of whom aren’t qualified to evaluate injuries – might have to make important decisions about whether an injured player should sit or play.

That’s not an easy thing to do while trying to oversee a practice or coach a game.

“I know coaches are supposed to have training in concussion management and that type of thing, but that’s still not their strong suit,” Bashaw said. “When you’re in the heat of a game and they’re trying to make calls, there can be some situations where things are missed.”

The problems inherent with that scenario are obvious. And Bashaw said athletes and coaches have been respectful of his diagnoses and recommendations.

The presence of an athletic trainer also allows for an easier flow of information between a player and a doctor, should the need arise for further medical treatment. With training personnel on-site, a player’s injury can be examined promptly and the doctor can be provided background information before making an evaluation.

“These kids can actually get help from their doctors a lot sooner, expedited through us,” Bashaw said. “The quality of care goes way up. In a lot of respects we’re getting these kids back safer, and also, if we can figure out an injury early on and get a formal diagnosis from a physician, we’re able to treat it and get them back playing sooner.”

Plus, it allows administrators to breathe a little easier.

Without people like Bashaw, Davis said, “it would put more of a burden on our coaches, probably a little more liability on our school.

“We think that it’s pretty valuable.”

Christian Caple