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National agency recognizes Penn-Trafford's efforts in safety

| Wednesday, May 29, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Over his 22 years as an athletic trainer at Penn-Trafford, Larry Cooper said the district consistently raises the bar in keeping athletes, coaches and fans safe.

He isn't the only one who's noticed.

The National Athletic Trainers' Association recently recognized Penn-Trafford with the Safe Sports School Award. The award, launched this year, recognizes private and public secondary schools that “provide safe environments for student athletes,” according to a press release.

“It's something that we take great pride in,” Cooper said. “We worked very hard to try and achieve this status.”

To achieve Safe Sports School status, Penn-Trafford had to meet a number of requirements set forth by the NATA.

Criteria include providing or coordinating physical examinations for athletes; developing injury and illness prevention strategies, including protocols for environmental conditions; and creating and rehearsing venue-specific emergency action plans.

Cooper said the district has worked for some time to make sure its safety procedures exceed the minimum standards set forth by state and national agencies. Penn-Trafford administers an orthopedic screening and concussion baseline test along with its physicals, and Cooper said the district rehearses the emergency action plans at coaches' meetings in the fall, winter and spring.

He said he pays specific attention to the criteria about preventing and treating injuries such as concussions and heat illnesses.

“We certainly know that (athletes') bodies are still growing and changing, so a lot of that stuff is critical when they're young so they don't have problems later on in life,” Cooper said. “That's why it's really important at the secondary school level to really improve on that.

“If you go to every college and university and professional team, they have a very involved sports medicine team that would involve physicians and specialists and athletic trainers. That doesn't necessarily happen at the secondary school level. We have done that — we have really tried to put our level of care equal to or above that of any college.”

Including Cooper, who teaches sports medicine, health and physical education at Penn-Trafford High School, the district employs three full-time athletic trainers. The other two are subcontracted through Excela Health.

As medical knowledge continues to increase, Cooper said the district will continue to make adjustments to provide appropriate care to athletes.

In the past, Penn-Trafford hosted seminars on concussions and wrestling weight loss. The district will continue to do so in the future, Cooper said.

Cooper is chairman of NATA's Secondary School Athletic Trainers' Committee and a member of the National Federation of State High School Associations Sports Medicine Advisory Committee. His membership in those organizations allows him to see developing medical issues earlier than he might otherwise.

“I can see what's coming down the road — what state organizations are worried about (and) what national organizations are worried about,” he said. “It's kind of given us an advantage: We can make adjustments and accommodations a little sooner. We'll continue to do that.”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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