Mark Florence, MAEL, LAT, ATC has been a mainstay at Naperville Central High School for many years, serving a dual role as the Head Athletic Trainer and a physical education teacher. Naperville Central, home of the Redhawks, is a large high school in the western Chicago suburbs with over 2,500 students between grades 9-12. There are 30 boys and girls sports at Naperville Central, including gymnastics, lacrosse, badminton, and water polo. Having a large number of athletes to care for and baseline test each year makes mass baseline testing an important endeavor for Florence and his staff.
Having insight into how the school and its campus technology were evolving was a concern for Florence as he began considering his athletic training program’s baseline and sideline testing needs. “From a high school standpoint, in our area, we just don’t have computer labs anymore,” said Florence. “Any sort of computer-based test makes baseline and post-injury testing a little bit more difficult.” The students at Naperville Central have access to Chromebooks, but they aren’t always accessible to them or have easy access to Wi-fi. “The kids won’t have their Chromebooks as available to them as their phones,” mentioned Florence.
Not being tied down to a computer lab was a game changer for Florence and how he baseline-tested Naperville Central’s student-athletes. “Using the students’ own phones was so much nicer. We get the data we need that helps us make quality decisions. We baseline test in larger groups in our main gym. Depending on the group size, I may be able to pull in other groups, like baseline testing the girl’s diving team at the same time as the soccer team.” A big improvement was how easy it was for Florence to rely on the coaches to help the baseline testing process go even smoother. “Now I can have the coaches there, which helps. I taught our coaches how to get the kids started on their phones. The kids listen better with the coaches there, too.”
Improving Patient and Parent Communication
Any athletic trainer who has spent time in the secondary school setting can think of a time when a parent did not want to believe their child had a injury or simply did not want to follow an injury protocol. On the sideline of a playoff game, Florence recalled a student taking a hit and needing to undergo a Sway sideline assessment. “The kid said he felt fine, but after looking at the sidelines assessment data compared to his baseline, there were some data points that were off,” said Florence. “I showed the kid and his parent and explained to them why I wouldn’t be sending him back onto the field. The parent appreciated the visual, and showing real data along with some patient education makes it easier.”
Today’s teens are tech-savvy, and Florence is well aware of this fact. “The truth is that computers are becoming less and less available in schools, at least as far as hardline computer labs. We don’t have a single computer lab anymore. We’re all one-to-one with a Chromebook. If I wanted to do a computer-based baseline test, I’d need to ask the students to remember to bring in their Chromebooks. If they forget - they’re out of luck.” Knowing today’s students, Florence reiterated, “these kids are physically attached to their phones. They won't forget them. When it’s time to baseline test, as long as they have the Sway app - we’re ready.”