DEMOREST, GEORGIA — Three Piedmont College students think they have uncovered the secret to preventing sports injuries.
“According to the research we found when comparing Piedmont to other NCAA DIII sports, it was intriguing to find that if a strength coach is hired, athletes’ injuries would go down drastically in contact sports,” said student Geeth Mahagamage. “A certified trainer motivates and pushes athletes in the weight room, unlike a head coach.”
Working with Professor Susanna Warnock, Mahagamage and fellow students Maggie Moody and Julia Nichols presented their session, “Using Data Science to Understand and Prevent Sports Injuries” at the 2020 Piedmont Symposium. The students used their speech to relate Piedmont sports injuries to other colleges in the division. Some data that was collected showed that student-athletes at Piedmont had a lower injury rate in non-contact sports when compared to other DIII institutions. However, when expressing their concern on contact sports they realized Piedmont athletes are at a higher risk across the board when compared to the NCAA injury rate and the NCAA DIII injury rate.
“Tear injuries are the most common type of injuries athletes see at Piedmont when playing a contact sport, so I believe hiring a trainer would help reduce that amount of injuries the athletes see,” said Moody, herself a student-athlete in tennis.
Not only does it make sense for the physical welfare of athletes, but a strength coach makes fiscal sense, Nichols said.
“Reducing injuries saves any college and athletes financially so why not hire a strength coach? The amount of money to hire a coach isn’t near the amount it costs Piedmont with athletes’ injuries,” said Nichols, a member of the cycling team.
The National Safety Council estimates that injuries cost roughly $9,000 per injury and with Piedmont having over 428 injuries per year it is costing the college roughly $3.8 million. The amount of time 428 athletes are in physical therapy is over 18,000 days. “Imagine if Piedmont’s athletes could get that time back and focus on improving their skills,” said Nichols.
The results sparked an interest among the presentation viewers. Although he supports the idea of adding a strength and conditioning coach, Matt McKinney, head athletic trainer at the school, doesn’t want people to think that it is a quick solution to the problem.
“At the end of the day it’s an athletes’ job to be disciplined to stretch and stay in shape working out, a strength coach telling an athlete is not any different from an athletic trainer telling them,” McKinney said.
Warnock said she was proud of her students’ research, and thinks it is something that Piedmont can use in future planning.
“However much money is needed into preventing injuries is well worth it because the cost of injuries is overwhelming,” Warnock said. “I am really satisfied with how our students found something applicable to the athletic trainer.”