Sidelined USA: A Resource for Athletic Trainers and Medically Disqualified Athletes
Like oxygen masks on a plane, it’s important to focus on your own wellbeing before you can help others. There are many tools such as Better Help, Calm app, meditation and more that address your personal mental health, but how do you help your athlete after they receive a diagnosis or injury that ends their athletic career?
Turn to the helpful team at Sidelined USA.
Texas based secondary school AT Danny B. says, “Having an athlete who was given a diagnosis that carried a medical disqualification left me feeling like my toolbox wasn’t quite sufficient to truly be as helpful to the student as I wanted to be. Sidelined USA filled that void in my toolbox, allowing me to reach out to the student and his parents to let them know that even in the absence of athletics, the community can still depend on athletic trainers for support.”
Sidelined USA is a national non-profit organization that specializes in supporting athletes who have been forced to end their athletic careers due to medical reasons such as injury, concussions, or health condition. The Pinalto family started Sidelined Chicago in 2016 after experiencing that trauma personally, eventually expanding nationally in 2018 after it became clear that the support system for medically-disqualified athletes was nearly non-existent.
Their mission is to reunite permanently-sidelined student-athletes with their passions and inspire them to find a meaningful way forward. They recognize the lasting psychological effects that occur when an athlete is no longer able to compete.
From the onset of the injury to the final diagnosis, athletes experience a wide spectrum of emotions and shifts in their understanding of themselves and who they are. They may feel helpless and will inherently be isolated from their teammates and support system as they miss out on field or court time.
As an athletic trainer, you will likely be a confidant during this confusing time period. There is also a strong possibility that you will be the person who delivers the devastating news of a career-ending injury. If you feel underprepared, Sidelined USA can further your knowledge and give you tools to navigate the complex situation.
Sidelined USA can help prepare you to assist your athletes through their experience in medically-forced exit from sport. Their resource guide serves as an introduction to available resources and through their care package request form, athletic trainers can request a free care package to help ease the burden of the initial adjustment to medical retirement.
Another athletic trainer who has worked with Sidelined USA, Kim M. felt the care package was the start of healing for her athlete.
“One of my athletes has been the recipient of the [care package] and participated in a few of the offered calls. She noted that it felt good to know she wasn’t alone and that others were experiencing the same things as her. Hearing from other sidelined athletes and their stories made her feel less isolated and helped her through the devastation of her athletics career ending. I am grateful to have the resources to help my athlete’s get through the tough times of acceptance and keep them in a good place mentally knowing that they aren’t alone and there is a place to connect with others going through similar struggles.”
One of the most valuable programs for athletic trainers is their Campus Liaison Program.
Through this program, athletic trainers across the country have expanded their knowledge base on supporting sidelined athletes and their parents via webinar trainings, online resources and other specialized tools.
After completing the program, you can serve as the resource partner for your school or campus and feel prepared to guide your medically-disqualified athletes on their journey to find other avenues and meaning in athletics. Hundreds of athletic trainers have stepped up to serve as their Campus Liaison with Sidelined USA and work as a conduit to athletes transitioning from the field to the sideline.
After learning about Sidelined USA from other ATs on social media, Danny has since become his school’s Campus Liaison and urges others to do the same.
“I highly encourage all ATs in the secondary school setting to participate in the Campus Liaison program if for no other reason than to promote awareness for Sidelined USA and to show that ATs play a role in the mental health of our student-athletes. The Campus Liaison designation is one I placed squarely even with the NATA Safe Sports School Award on our website because I fully believe it carries the same weight and importance.”
“Obviously we athletic trainers don’t do what we do for any glory or recognition, but when we can even just see gratitude in the eyes of our athletes, especially one who’s been medically disqualified, it refills our “why tank” again,” said Danny.
You can learn more about Sidelined USA and get involved by visiting www.sidelinedusa.org.