MONROE — It was a freshman football game, and players were dropping, one after another, with various injuries.
Jada Vignos remembers watching closely as an ankle was wrapped and a player tested for a concussion. She raced to grab crutches and fill an ice bag.
The Monroe High School senior is part of her school’s sports medicine program. She and her peers help at games and practices, getting hands-on experience in topics they’ve studied in the classroom.
Sarah Reeves, another senior, also vividly remembers a football game. She helped a player who had taken a hard hit and wandered to the opposite side of the field. She could tell he was concussed.
For senior Cara Soules, a girls’ basketball game sticks out in her mind. An athlete took an elbow to the face, and her lip split. She needed stitches. Soules saw how the wound was treated.
All three teens aim to go into the medical profession. The sports medicine classes provide a foundation in subjects such as anatomy, physiology, CPR, wound care and injury prevention. They are in the final stretch of the three-year program, which starts with an introductory class and continues into more advanced sports medicine.
Student involvement in caring for high school athletes is part of an athletic training program at Monroe High that recently won national recognition.
Monroe received a First Team Safe Sports School award from the National Athletic Trainers’ Association. It is one of six schools in the state to be recognized, and the only one in Snohomish County, according to NATA.
The award celebrates schools that create a safe environment for athletes and focus on injury prevention. There’s a checklist of requirements. Among them: providing physical exams for athletes; keeping facilities and equipment safe and maintained; creating plans for preventing and responding to injuries; and teaching athletes and their families about the benefits and risks of sports.
The goal is to set high safety standards for student athletes, said Heather Sevier, who has taught sports medicine in Monroe for four years and was the athletic trainer for three.
“When I got hired here, that was something I really wanted to make sure we did,” she said. “Making sure, at all events, that every kid, every time, is taken care of.”
Monroe is lucky to have an athletic trainer at most events, she said. There’s a push for more schools to have paid trainers on hand.
Sports medicine is a program that makes a lot of sense in high schools, Sevier said. There are plenty of events throughout the year where students can observe and assist. It’s easy to get hands-on practice, and it benefits the athletes to have more people nearby who have learned how to perform CPR, tape ankles and recognize signs of a concussion or other injuries. The students work under the supervision of adult professionals.
Vignos, Soules and Reeves are athletes themselves. Reeves plays softball, Soules plays volleyball and Vignos runs cross country and track.
“It’s nice to be able to look out for your peers that you see every day and take care of them,” Vignos said.
About 20 of the 50 sports medicine students also participate in state competitions that test their knowledge.
Last year, the team took fourth place in the state. This year, the goal is top three. The competition is later this month. Students will answer questions, race to tape ankles and give research presentations.
Other schools that Monroe High plays against have sports medicine programs, too, Sevier said. The students see one another at the state competitions and on the sidelines at games.
Sports medicine is different from Reeves’ other classes. Most courses are on her schedule because they’re required for graduation, she said. She takes sports medicine because she knows she’ll remember the lessons, and she’ll use the skills.
“I think it helps put me in the scene where I’m already pursuing my career and my future,” Reeves said.