USF Health, USF Athletics adopt independent medical model for student-athlete care

USF Athletic Training Program student Amanda Roithmayr removes the hand tape from lineman Jean Marcellus at the conclusion of a preseason practice.

On July 15, USF Health and USF Athletics partnered on an implementation of an independent medical model that supports the physical and psychosocial welfare of student-athletes.

Under the new model, physicians will have increased contact with athletic trainers and student-athletes within the Selmon Athletic Center Athletic Training Clinic, where they care for more than 450 student-athletes.

The new model includes shifting reporting and funding lines of 16 athletic trainers and the Behavioral Health Coordinator previously in USF Athletics to now fall under the Department of Orthopedics and Sports Medicine within the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, according to Jennifer Farrant, MSEd, ATC, administrator for the Department of Orthopedic Surgery and Sports Medicine and Department of USF Family Medicine.

“Through this model, we’ve found a way to make sure our athletic trainers are reporting through a physician to ensure the medical decisions made by and for the student-athlete are truly in his or her best interest,” Farrant said.

“Long-term, this model will increase the educational and research opportunities that come with having an athletic training program housed within a medical school,” Farrant added. “This new model will help the recruiting efforts of student-athletes, athletic trainers, and other primary care physicians.”

Division 1 athletic trainers have historically reported through athletic departments and not a physician, Farrant noted.

In the past, physicians weren’t always available because they were in clinic or had other patient obligations, according to Renée Dubault, chief operating officer and associate executive director of Business Operations for USF Health.

“One of the most important benefits of this effort will be a better level of care for student-athletes and direct access to physician care,” Dubault said.

Models like this aren’t common, but there is a growing trend to move in this direction. The NCAA recommends true medical models with independent medical decision-making. Going forward, it’s important for athletic trainers and physicians to have that independence when it comes to medical decisions of student-athletes, said Steve Walz, MA, ATC, LAT, Associate Athletic Director-Director of Sports Medicine for USF Athletics. “It also allows for better collaboration and oversight of the athletic training staff with the team physicians.”

“This will undoubtedly provide a greater breadth of care for our student-athletes,” Walz said. “With the increased contact and services with physicians and a better connection with USF Health, we have more tools to do what we need to do to keep student-athletes as healthy as possible. This will help continue to push the athletic training profession forward and help people realize it’s a medical profession with a lot of responsibility.”

The NCAA hasn’t yet mandated the new model for all schools and sports programs.  However, Walz said it isn’t about what is mandated, it is about providing the best healthcare system for the student-athlete.  “We have been discussing this plan for several years now and in a large university environment it takes the right leadership so having people like Dr. (Charles) Lockwood, Michael Kelly, and Dr. (Roy) Sanders onboard for this is really how this finally came to fruition.”