AT Stories: Kate Trippier, Head Athletic Therapist - SAIT Trojans

Athletic Therapy is a unique discipline that encompasses both clinical and field practice. It is one of the few rehabilitation professions wherein one is required to manage an athletic injury at both ends of the continuum: from initial trauma to return to play. ATs work cohesively and collaboratively with other healthcare professionals and must fulfill a broad spectrum of competencies on any given day. Athletic therapists are elite caregivers that provide on-site treatment in the management of sport-related injuries. In many cases, the profession requires one to adopt emergency care protocols for injured athletes using adaptations of existing medical and paramedical standards.

 

The Competencies in Athletic Therapy are divided into five domains:

  1. Prevention
  2. Assessment
  3. Intervention
  4. Practice Management
  5. Professional Responsibility

An Athletic Therapist is an extraordinarily valuable friend and colleague to have in any stage of life and athletics. Today we will gain insight on what makes the profession so special.

(Photos courtesy of saittrojans.com)

Kate Trippier Interview

March is National Athletic Trainers Month so it is only fitting to begin with an extremely knowledgeable and insightful individual. Kate Trippier is the Head Athletic Therapist at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) in Calgary. She completed her Kinesiology degree and AT certification through the partner program at the University of Calgary and Mount Royal University. After graduation, Kate worked in a private clinic until she was hired to work with the Trojans in 2016.

 

Why did you decide to become an Athletic Therapist?

 

Kate: I was born and raised in a small town in northwestern Ontario without any qualified rehabilitation professionals. I played a handful of sports growing up, primarily hockey, and at one point I fractured a vertebrae in my neck. Getting access to care and a proper plan for recovery was really challenging. It was a lengthy and often frustrating process but the experience allowed me to do a lot of research. It sparked a passion to learn about the human body and musculoskeletal world in a hands-on way.

 

What is your favourite part about working with young, elite athletes; the most challenging aspect?

 

Kate: I love how entertaining they are. Every day at work I have a great time and it is hard to go even an hour without sharing some chuckles. Athletes are highly motivated and hard working people, but they are also intelligent and hilarious.

 

The most challenging part of my job is trying to foster the understanding that there is life after the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC). Many athletes struggle to understand or are frustrated by why they are being held out of games or practices when they feel they could play. As you grow older, you come to understand just how much of life there is to see, and how many important and exciting experiences are waiting beyond college athletics. It is my job to keep them healthy for life, not just the season.

 

What do you currently do when you suspect an athlete could have sustained a concussion?

 

Kate: SAIT is really fortunate to have access to practicum students who are assigned to each of our varsity teams. If an injury or suspected concussion occurs during training or competition, they are immediately assessed by whoever is on site. If the athlete reveals signs or symptoms of a concussion they are immediately removed from play. The next business day the athlete will check in with our clinic and myself for a comprehensive exam. We do a full SCAT 3 and compare their results to the baseline testing conducted on all athletes prior to the beginning of each season. Depending on the results, we follow protocols from here.

 

The athlete will continue to check in daily until asymptomatic, at this point we can proceed with the return to learn protocol. If every step of this is successfully completed, we move on to the return to play protocol. This process has become quite universal and much more streamlined in recent years. By scraping the old school grading system and implementing a specific 5-stage protocol, it allows us to be more consistent and thorough across the board.

 

 At SAIT, there are numerous varsity teams and over a hundred athletes representing the Trojans. What resources do you feel best equip you to do your job? 

 

Kate: In addition to what we have already mentioned with our practicum students and certain protocols, having access to the sports medicine clinic in Calgary is invaluable. We are able to get our athletes in with Sports Medicine as soon as next day if urgent. We are fortunate to have the option to get athletes in with Dr. Brian Benson at Winsport. He is one of the leaders in concussion research. He is able to have athletes complete further testing, such as robotics, to aid in the safe return to play of anyone referred.

 

Looking to the future, how would you like to see the field of concussion science develop?

 

Kate: I am glad you asked this. The technology is progressing at a fairly rapid pace which is great to see, however there is still a long way to go. It would be great if we could get onsite testing that is more in depth that what we currently have available through the basic SCAT3. There are some technologies available at this time, but athletes can still ‘’throw the testing’’ at baseline or become accustomed to the assessment allowing them to appear to be better than they are. It’s definitely a lot to ask to have something available at our finger tips that is in depth, accurate, and without loop holes and that’s likely why it isn’t available yet.

 

Hopefully, as technology continues to advance it won’t be long before this is available for all Athletic Therapists’ to utilize. From a return to play perspective, I would love to see a more psychological aspect be added to the current model. It is known that there are psychological effects associated with concussions from frustration due to inability to participate to feeling isolated from the team. Although athletes are always advised of options on where to seek help for this aspect of health it is often not sought out.

 

"Your neck is your head's safety belt. Keep your neck muscles strong to help reduce risk for concussion." - Kate Trippier

 


 

Athletes in every field are bigger, faster and stronger. There have been advances to equipment in several sports, and training, nutrition and preparation have never been better. Once lagging behind, the scientific and medical knowledge of brain trauma is now determined to keep pace. From elite athletes to the general public, our community is growing and there have been steady increases in curiosity and understanding of concussion science. At HeadCheck, we support professionals to provide concussion testing and management for their athletes.

 


Sarah Allison

BHK - Clinical Exercise Physiology

BSN-PB Student - Nursing (RN)


Mental rest and concussion recovery

One of the most frustrating parts of having a concussion is that you can't control your recovery process or sometimes even how you're feeling. You can't anticipate those wild flashes of emotion, the sudden mood swing or dread of the next big headache that will take you out for the unforeseeable future. Further, it is hard to keep track of those sudden changes and so when you visit your doctor next you know you're still suffering but can't articulate examples of how.

 

Most people recover after a concussion, but how quickly they improve is reliant on a number of factors from concussion severity and age to health levels and how they take care of themselves afterward. In the conversations we've had with people recovering from concussive injury, a common theme emerged: it is hard to live life normally - at their job, in their activities, at home or when interacting with others. Frustrations are common and we are often asked "is there anything else I can do?".

 

The best answer may be the simplest one: Do moderation. Be patient.

 

Rest is incredibly important after a concussion because it helps with the recovery process. Too often we see people try to "tough it out". Unfortunately, by working through the injury, patients can sometimes make their symptoms worse. A slow and gradual return to daily activities should only happen once your symptoms have reduced significantly and your health care professional has given you the ok.

 

To be clear, when we say "Rest" we don't just mean sleep it off. Sleep is a keystone to the recovery process, but you also need to regulate activities that are physically or mentally demanding (working out, gaming, excessive housecleaning, surfing online, writing exams, etc.).  In some cases for students, being in classroom settings can exacerbate symptoms. Return to learning needs to be managed on a case by case basis and trialed with lots of feedback from the student and the support of a medical professional. Sustained screen time (computer, phone and tablet) should be avoided early in the recovery process and introduced gradually over time. Check in with yourself as you introduce these activities and tread lightly. If your symptoms come back, you're pushing yourself too hard. Pull back and take more time to rest and heal. Finally, keep track of any symptom or mood events and what happened beforehand. If you already use a fitness or food tracker, add your mood into the mix or keep some extra notes. If you don’t, write your symptoms down on a piece of paper and score them or download the HeadCheck app and store your symptom severity scores to share with your doctor the next time you see him/her.
While you can’t force recovery from a concussive injury, you can treat yourself with kindness by doing some of the things we’ve listed above.


Concussion Basics

What is a Concussion?

The occurrence of concussion, a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI), has risen dramatically over the past 10 years and is nowadays considered a major cause of disability in Canada and the US. This type of brain injury is caused by a direct bump, blow, or jolt to the head or an indirect blow to the body that causes the brain to rapidly move back and forth within the skull. Concussions can occur during a fall, accident, household or work mishaps and commonly in high-contact sports such as football, rugby, hockey, and soccer. Indications of a concussion usually reflect a functional disturbance to the brain and may include physical (e.g. headaches, nausea), cognitive (e.g. difficulty with concentration or memory), emotional (e.g. irritability, sadness), and ‘maintenance’ (e.g. sleep disturbances, changes in appetite or energy levels) symptoms. Standing balance is also a common indicator of concussion, whereby concussed individuals suffer from a distinct lack of postural stability. Improper diagnosis of these indicators and management of concussion may result in serious long-term or lifelong disability, risk of coma, or in extreme cases death.

What Should I Do If I Have a Concussion?

Never ignore a collision to the head - it is always better to miss one game than the whole season and to be safe than sorry. If you believe you have a concussion, informing your coach or athletic therapist/trainer is the first step in order to evaluate whether or not you have a concussion. If a more severe injury is suspected, they will send you to the hospital for further examination and diagnosis to understand the severity of the brain injury. Even though there are currently no validated medical treatments for concussions, the recommended recovery method is by giving your brain a rest, both physically and mentally. Rest includes limiting exercise and activities that require thinking or mental concentration such as schoolwork, reading, and using a computer or mobile device. Before returning to play, it’s crucial to receive a clearance from a medical professional even if you no longer feel the symptoms of a concussion anymore. Returning to sport too soon will increase the risk of having a second concussion that could lead to permanent or fatal brain damage.

How Do I Prevent a Concussion?

Do what you love and love what you love. If participating in sport is an activity that you enjoy, don’t let the increased chance of receiving a concussion prevent you from doing something that you enjoy. Concussion risk can be reduced by playing by the rules, wearing the proper equipment for the sport and wearing the equipment properly, learn and use the proper techniques of your sport, and practicing good sportsmanship.