The team of physicians and athletic trainers in Seattle Children’s Sports Medicine Program leads the way nationally with programs designed to prevent injuries among young athletes.

The Sports Medicine Program includes a team of providers with specialized expertise: two pediatric sports surgeons, a physiatrist and five pediatricians who all possess fellowship training in sports medicine, and three sports medicine-trained physician assistants.

These experienced providers work with more than 40 certified athletic trainers in the Athletic Trainers Program – the largest program of its kind in the country – who monitor the health and safety of young athletes at more than 300 school and community sporting events annually. All of the clinicians in our Sports Medicine Program understand the specific physical and psychosocial challenges of sports injuries, either because they were athletes themselves or have worked with elite international- and Olympic-level competitors.

Frontline care that begins on the sidelines

Before the Athletic Trainers Program launched 10 years ago, there was no on-site care to students at schools in the region. Now, the athletic trainers have become integrated into the academic and administrative operations at 38 public and private high schools in the Puget Sound area, evaluating injuries when they occur, educating athletes about injury prevention, and advising both coaches and athletes about activity modification.

In addition, athletic trainers give providers in the Sports Medicine Program field-to-field contact with players who do get injured. They guide young athletes to the best provider for their injury and then work with that physician after treatment on rehabilitation and recovery.

“The athletic trainers are a critical component to closing the circle of care for providers in the community,” says Andrew Little, sports medicine and concussion program manager at Seattle Children’s. “They provide an opportunity for communication and collaboration, from injury to return-to-play.”

This model of always having an athletic trainer present at practices and games allows for more effective injury prevention programs and early intervention before injuries become worse. Although the program cared for 91,000 young athletes in 2017, the athletic trainers continue to see a drop in injuries that limit young athletes from play.

Focused on prevention

Both the Sports Medicine Program’s providers and athletic trainers participate in the Seattle Sports Concussion Program, a collaboration of Seattle Children’s, UW Medicine and Harborview Medical Center. The program encompasses a number of the country’s leading medical experts – from sports medicine physicians and physiatrists to neuropsychologists and neurosurgeons – to care for these complex injuries.

Beyond concussion care, physicians also work to optimize athletes’ health and minimize the chance of reinjury.

“Overuse injuries make up at least 50% of sports-related injuries in young athletes,” says Dr. Monique Burton, medical director of Sports Medicine at Seattle Children’s. “Our program not only focuses on recovery from injury, but also what contributed to causing the injury. We provide a detailed plan to incorporate all aspects of the patient, including biomechanical and training issues, nutrition and wellness, and psychological factors that may be impacting them.”

A team of sports physical therapists plays a key role in this preventive approach, guiding patients through customized (including adaptive), sport-specific, evidence-based rehabilitation that helps them return to – and stay on – the field.

“Our goal is to ensure all children of all abilities and backgrounds can be healthy and physically active for life in their activities of choice,” Burton says.

Call 206-987-7777 for provider-to-provider patient consults and visit our Sports Medicine Program to learn more.