Sports Medicine

Employers turn to athletic trainers to keep work teams off the disabled list

By Stephanie Goldberg

Sophisticated employers are implementing programs to address workers’ physical ailments before they become costly injuries.

“We’re at work sometimes more than we’re at home,” said Maria Henderson, senior director of workforce health at Pacific Gas & Electric Co. in San Francisco. If employers don’t promote preventive care and offer resources to workers, “it’s not going to happen.”

PG&E is among companies using what are known as industrial athlete programs to increase employee engagement and reduce workers compensation and group medical costs and absenteeism.

The idea has been around more than 10 years, but experts say only a small percentage of employers have such a program in place.

Like athletes, many workers put their bodies through tremendous stress, said Marty Matney, program manager and head athletic trainer at Work-Fit L.L.C. The Everett, Washington-based company manages injury prevention, on-site fitness and other programs for employers as part of Agility Health L.L.C.

While “athletes may subject their bodies to maximum exertion for about two to three hours a day,” employees might be at it for 10 hours, he said.


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