Kansas’ high school athletes in good hands, thanks to athletic trainers from University of Kansas Health System

Telling the Hospital Story: University of Kansas Health System trainers

Friday night lights are a time-honored tradition each fall in many Kansas communities, where football teams from area high schools compete in front of their fellow students, families and others. But injuries happen, and that’s when having a professional on the sidelines can be the difference between life and death.

Doug Wiesner, director of the youth sports medicine program at the University of Kansas Health System, has been sending the organization’s athletic trainers into local high schools to care for student athletes for more than a decade. He started the initiative after determining local athletes weren’t receiving the proper level of care they needed.

“We put the athletic trainer in the schools, and we want them to be part of that fabric of the school,” Wiesner said. “It’s so important for them to be embedded and become part of that community.”

That care, and relationships forged between students and health care professionals, became critical in September 2023, when Caitlin Truhe, one of Wiesner’s trainers, intervened to treat a player who suffered a lacerated spleen. In Truhe’s case, the relationship she’d forged with the player over the course of his high school career gave her the necessary context to know he was dealing with something severe.

“I kind of knew, based off his face, that there was something more,” Truhe said. “I took him off to the sideline, and I assessed for rib pain and any other soft tissue pain, and all of that was negative. But clearly, something else was causing him pain, so we needed to really get a further assessment. I called [sports medicine specialist] Dr. Lisa Vopat, who was also on our sidelines, over to assess as well.”

Today, athletic trainers from KU Health System are embedded in 38 schools in the system’s local area, working directly with student-athletes from all sports and meeting as a group to develop and practice emergency action plans for medical emergencies like cardiac events, heat illness and mental health crises. They are also supported by KU Health System's sports medicine physicians, who provide additional support if a student suffers from an injury, and help them return to play.


Resources on the Role of Hospitals