Prince William County schools partnering with GMU to help middle school student athletes


June 27, 2021

WOODBRIDGE, Va. (7News) — Fourteen-year-old Cori Johnson swims and plays soccer, and she’s no stranger to sports injuries.

“I got hurt myself once and I sprained my ankle pretty bad, but the trainer helped me recover and get slowly back into practicing and stuff,” said Johnson.

The athletic trainer who helped her recover was part of an initiative to study middle school sports injuries in Prince William County. That initiative is in partnership with researchers from George Mason University who recently found middle school athletes have a higher rate of concussions than high school athletes.

The research also finds that female athletes in middle school are twice as likely to suffer from sports injuries like concussions, according to Dr. Shane Caswell at George Mason University.

“This finding is the first time it’s been identified in a middle-school-age population,” said Dr. Caswell. “This finding is consistent with what we find at the high school setting.”

Dr. Caswell says this research is important because the findings will inform pediatrics sports medicine across the country.

“There’s so much we don’t know in particular at the middle school level,” said Dr. Caswell. “They are rapidly growing. We have kids of different sizes competing against each other, different psychological levels of development, neurologically, socially, etc.”

“Whenever I see someone bigger than me, I get more scared I guess because we aren’t all completely the same size,” said Johnson. “It’s scary sometimes playing around with people more built.”

Another benefit to the study, according to Dr. Caswell, is that middle schools in Prince William County have had athletic trainers on-site during sports games and practices over the past five years. Which isn’t the case everywhere.

“There are serious injuries that occur and having onsite healthcare by a medical license provider like an athletic trainer in this setting is crucial to make sure kids are able to participate safely,” said Dr. Caswell.

Having a licensed medical professional on-site during practice and sports games helps put Cori’s father, Vernon Johnson, at ease.

“I was like great, we’ll have a health care professional who can manage the kids,” said Mr. Johnson, who has three girls who play sports. “I think its great Prince William stepped up to the plate and said hey we need to make sure our students are protected.”

The research was presented at the National Athletic Trainers’ Associations’ 2021 NATA Virtual Clinical Symposia & AT Expo.

The research also found middle school athletes who play football have the greatest overall concussion rate.

Additionally, the research finds sports with the highest concussion rates are football, wrestling, and girls soccer.

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