The resumption of scholastic and collegiate sports is a matter of when and, in the short run, if, but regardless of what happens, athletic trainers are going to be important.

“Right now what we’re trying to do is wade through all this,” Nelson Jones, Presbyterian College’s Associate Athletics Director for Sports Medicine, said. “That’s kind of the difficult part: weighing what’s out there with the NCAA, NATA (National Athletic Trainers Association), CDC (Center for Disease Control), all that kind of stuff. We’re trying to figure out guidelines and bring all these athletes back safely. It’s a daunting task. I’m talking with conference members, team physicians and other trainers trying to see what’s best for us. How frequently we’re going to test, all that kind of stuff.

“It’s different for every institution. The thing for me is we need to try to get the right information and simplify it the best we can and apply it to our needs.”

A major complication for colleges is the patchwork of different standards in different states. Football teams representing seven other states are on this fall’s Blue Hose schedule. On the other hand, Presbyterian has some time to get ready. Few, if any, athletes are around campus until August.

“Another piece of that is working with the general student body, too,” Jones said. “Things are changing. How you serve food, all that kind of stuff.”

The high schools are about to go to work now. As soon as next week, the ban is likely to be lifted regarding group workouts. Soon gyms, weight rooms and practice facilities are going to be opened. Changes extend beyond just the athletes, Clinton High School’s Athletic Trainer, Nora Ann Pace, noted that change will be “an unprecedented scenario.”

“In all the years (11) I’ve been an athletic trainer, I’ve never not been a part of spring training and spring sports,” she said. “We’re more than likely dealing with a new normal. You have to take the information that’s out there and search for a good, responsible middle ground. Our kids’ safety is No. 1. This is not going away. We’ll have to deal with this from now on. Policies are in the works to keep our kids and coaches safe.

“Lots of changes will have to be made. The athletic trainer is going to have be a points person in screening kids. We make sure we’re keeping everything safe and clean, and this will require even greater precautions than we’re already doing. We can’t live in a bubble for the rest of our lives. We need to keep everyone safe and that could mean practicing proper hygiene and wearing masks. We have to consider sports interaction, but also mental and physical health, and we’ve got to do it as quickly and as safely as possible.”

All athletes may not be required to wear masks, but, Pace said, “The plan is to have something available if they want to. I’ve got the financial aspect of that in the back of my mind.”

Standards must be considered. It would be unwise for any athlete to wear a mask that impedes breathing in even a mild way. Donations may be offered to fill the needs, but some standards will have to be met.

“This is stressful for all of us,” Pace said, “but it’s exciting to get back out there and worth everything it takes to provide for our athletes’ needs.”