a construction worker stretching on the jobsite

Athletic Trainers Help Workers Get Back to the Jobsite and Stay Healthy After Injury

Athletic trainers can train more than just athletes. Physically demanding jobs, such as construction, can put major strain on the body, and athletic trainers can help workers recover better.
By Bryan Lockhart
July 9, 2024

There are a number of factors on an active jobsite that can lead to workplace injuries. Heavy machinery, fast-moving equipment, material handling, loud noises and more can create safety hazards and make it easy to lose focus or become distracted. Additionally, the movements workers have to do in their roles—such as lifting or pushing objects or crouching low to the ground for extended periods—can add strain to the body if not done correctly.

The goal is always to minimize the risk of injury, and yet, incidents still occur. According to 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics data, slips, trips and falls are the most common injuries, accounting for 18% of non-fatal work injuries resulting in days away from work. When workers are injured, it can lead to downtime, lost productivity on the site and workers’ compensation claims.

Employers and site leaders can take various approaches to help workers return to the jobsite safely and effectively and keep them healthy once they return. Introducing an onsite clinic and athletic trainers can help prevent injuries, improve worker health, get people back to work effectively and keep them healthy in the long run. Here are three ways athletic trainers help workers get back to the job and improve their overall health.

Injury Prevention

Athletic trainers are a critical asset for worksites looking to reduce injuries and implement prevention strategies that show improvement over time. A huge factor in introducing risk controls on a jobsite is knowing the worker population. Age, physical activity, nutrition, level of experience and conditions like obesity or diabetes can have an impact on injuries. These health factors can make some workers more prone to severe injury or bruises and cuts. They can also turn a small slip or fall into a more severe surgical case.

Athletic trainers will walk around the jobsite and observe workers as they perform their tasks, allowing them to pick up on population health trends that might require formal, sitewide programs. For example, if they notice a lot of workers seem to have unsafe back movement or complain of back pain, athletic trainers will develop ergonomic solutions and stretching programs that teach workers better ways to lift or perform their function and get the group to complete warm-up stretches together to get their muscles ready to work.

Strategic Recovery

When a worker is injured, athletic trainers are an important resource to help them stay motivated to get better, providing guidance and showing them the science behind recovery. Athletic trainers focus on the employee and their health rather than the work restriction, helping them slowly implement strategic treatment options and improving overall functional movement that will get them to the next point in their recovery. Athletic trainers also monitor progress each week and help workers make necessary changes and adjustments during recovery time to ensure they are getting the most out of it.

Athletic trainers will tap into preventative stretching programs for injury recovery, giving workers movements that are easy to follow and that target the affected area. When an injured worker comes to an onsite clinic, athletic trainers can create progressive recommendations that mimic what the worker does on the job. For example, a worker might lift 15-lb. stacks regularly and needs to get back to doing so without pain. The athletic trainer can mimic that movement with no weight and slowly increase the weight until the worker is back to 100% functionality. Additionally, athletic trainers will give attention to the worker’s full body, not just the injury, to ensure they are fully ready to return to the job and don’t risk another injury by overcompensating.

Wellness Focus

Getting injured isn’t just physical; there’s a mental component to it as well. When workers are away from the job, they can feel isolated from work, from their colleagues and friends, and feel like something has changed. They might think getting back to work isn’t attainable. That’s where athletic trainers can really help employers keep injured workers motivated and feel like they are cared about and matter to the jobsite.

Athletic trainers spend a lot of their time on the jobsite building trust and forming relationships with workers. With that foundation, workers are more likely to reach out during recovery to ask questions, make sure they’re doing what they need to, and stay engaged with their work. One way athletic trainers build relationships is through wellness programs, like step challenges or hydration challenges, that encourage healthy behaviors through competition. These provide an opening for the athletic trainers to connect with workers and get to know them–all while improving worker health and wellness.

Improving Health With Athletic Trainers

Athletic trainers are an asset on worksites when it comes to injury prevention, recovery and overall health and wellness of workers. They take the time to understand the job, learning how workers are using their bodies and getting to know them on a personal level to help make adjustments that lead to healthier, more productive workforces. And when workers are injured, athletic trainers make sure they have the tools they need to recover safely and efficiently. For employers and site leaders, a healthier workforce means less time away from work, higher productivity and greater job satisfaction, leading to sustained success.

by Bryan Lockhart
Bryan Lockhart, Athletic Training Division Manager, Pivot Onsite Innovations

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