Athletic trainers specialize in preventing injuries and carrying out rehabilitation programs. They also play key roles in helping staff and equip youth leagues, school programs, and professional sports organizations – in addition to major athletic events like track-and-field competitions and marathons.
Meet Rob Henry, who undertakes all of the above as Sports Medicine Outreach Coordinator for Baptist Health Orthopedic Care. March is National Athletic Training Month, a time when the spotlight shifts a little more toward the trainers behind the prominent athletes.
“Athletic trainers are the ‘jack-of-all-trades’ of sports,” says Mr. Henry, who’s pictured above left with the Baptist Health Orthopedic Care team at the 2022 Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium, and at right during the recent Baptist Health 305 Half Marathon and 5k.
Rob Henry, Sports Medicine Outreach Coordinator for Baptist Health Orthopedic Care.
He’s an athletic trainer by trade, achieving athletic trainer certification (ATC) at Florida International University. Three years later, he joined Baptist Health in 2013. He initially worked as a “float” with the clinics and the physicians, but he always did some outreach. For seven years, he’s been the outreach coordinator.
Inspired by His Athletic Trainer in High School
As an aspiring defensive back on his high school football team, Mr. Henry recalls constantly spraining his ankle and suffering other nagging injuries. As it turned out, that streak of bad luck enabled him to observe the work of his athletic trainer. And he became inspired.
“I would always find myself with the athletic trainer at the high school,” he recalls. “I always thought he was cool. He was always taping us up and taking care of us. I would always ask him questions. ‘Oh, what is it that you're doing? What is that? What is this?’ I asked him a lot of questions. One day, he tells me: “You're always in here asking questions. If you're that interested, you can go to school for this."
And, indeed, he did. In his work, Mr. Henry helps coordinate injury prevention for athletes at all levels and all ages – from youth leagues with players 6- to 13-year-old to events with more seasoned athletes, such as the National Senior Games, a two-week long, Olympic-style tournament in May for senior citizens, ages 50 to 103.
“Part of being the outreach coordinator, is making sure I have the proper staff for those events and the proper medical supplies,” he explains. “I even work those events myself. I make sure that we have enough staff to cover their weekend games during the season. That being said, we have athletic trainers that work within Baptist Health or those who are contracted trainers. They're out there helping facilitate injury prevention, doing basic first aid and taking care of the youth.”
Baptist Health Partners: From Youth Leagues to Senior Games
Mr. Henry’s list of outreach Baptist Health partners is long, prominent and diverse. It includes young athletes at 38 different Miami-Dade public high schools; the Miami Dolphins Youth Foundation, which includes youth football camps at Hard Ro ck Stadium and different parks; Miami Xtreme youth football league; and Life Time Fitness, the organizer of five different running events at which Baptist Health is the official sports medicine provider.
For the biggest running event of the year, the Life Time Miami Marathon & Half in January, he coordinates supplies for the medical tents that care for thousands of runners and deploys medical kits for all 23 rest stops and prepares orientation sessions for all medical staff.
When it comes to vulnerable young athletes in public schools, Mr. Henry helps athletic trainers meet with compliance when it comes to treating heat-related issues and sudden cardiac arrest. The Zachary Martin Act requires heat illness training and life-saving equipment for all Florida High School Athletic Association member schools. That includes large containers, or cold immersion tubs, with ice and water present at all outdoor practices and games.
And there’s the vital need to have AEDs (Automated External Defibrillators) at all schools. AEDs deliver an electric shock to restore normal heart rhythm after sudden cardiac arrest. On Jan. 2, worldwide attention focused on such a life-saving effort when Buffalo Bills defensive back Damar Hamlin suffered sudden cardiac arrest after a tackle and was revived after extensive CPR and the use of an AED.
The Damar Hamlin situation has prompted more high school programs to become fully compliant in having the necessary equipment. Whenever necessary, Mr. Henry assists Eli Friedman, M.D., medical director of sports cardiology at Baptist Health Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute, who is spearheading programs to help diagnose or treat cardiovascular conditions in athletes – and active individuals at all ages -- across South Florida, and help train athletes and their coaches in proper CPR techniques in school and college athletic programs.
Mr. Henry also assists team physicians with Baptist Health Orthopedic Care when they tend to professional sports teams, including game preparation or coverage featuring the Miami Dolphins, Miami HEAT, Florida Panthers and Inter Miami CF.
“I remember 20 years ago when athletic trainers were only in professional sports or collegiate settings or high schools,” said Mr. Henry. “Now, you see them in doctor's offices. You see them at Amazon. You see them in the military. You see them everywhere. So it's good that people are finding the value in athletic trainers and taking it to the next level, making sure that the health and safety of everyone is the top priority.”