By Larry Cooper MS, ATC, LAT
NATA Secondary School Athletic Trainers' Committee
District Two Representative
Everyone wants an athletic training facility that is equipped with all the bells and whistles but rarely do we have the budget to pay for everything. For this reason we need to think outside the proverbial box so that we stay within our financial constraints but still provide for our student athletes the best that we can. We as ATs are great at looking at all angles when developing a rehabilitation program or determining a RTP but how do you do with budgeting and inventory? Let us give you a little help in equipping your room like a champ.
Angle boards and wobble boards are important pieces of equipment that you would like as part of your facility. No need to pay for a name brand product. Spend your money on something else and then in two years revisit these products again. In the meantime get scrap wood from the woodshop, the drama department or visit the new housing plan in your community. All you need is a few pieces of 2 x 4’s, 2 x 6’s, a small piece of handrail and plywood sheathing. Cut them at various angles, paint them in your school colors and voila, new equipment with absolutely minimal cost.
Need padding for donut pads or for over casts? Go to a local carpet store and ask for scrap or left over carpet padding. While it might not be the same as high-density foam padding, you can double it up or triple it up and still provide the protection you desire with no cost involved. Again, this is not a desirable alternative forever but it can help to save some money so that you can establish a surplus of other supplies.
Rubber tubing, while very necessary and part of athletic training facilities across the country, can be very expensive. Don’t have the money to buy different resistance in this year’s budget? Go to a local bike store and develop a relationship with the workers so that they save all of the inner tubes that they replace. When you get them, cut it on either side of the stem, so that the stem can be thrown away. You have just made a length of tubing that you can use for shoulder or ankle rehab or any other area of the body.
BAPS Boards are engineered to provide anatomically correct movement during ankle rehabilitation. The first few years that I moved to my current school I could not afford one, I just felt like that money needed to be spent on expendable supplies. So I used some scrap ¾ inch plywood found at a new housing plan and cut 16-18 inch circles. Next I went to some yard sales and found some old croquet sets and bought them for $2 to $3. I only wanted the wooden balls that are hard to come by. Next I cut one in half, one in a 30/70 ratio and another in a 20/80 ratio. Then I attached Velcro to each of the balls and also the bottom of the plywood in the center. Now when I had to progress the ankle rehab program I had five different sizes to choose from depending on the student athletes ROM. While I now have two BAPS Boards in our facility, we still use the homemade version if needed.
Another item that I pick up at yard sales are crutches. Have you ever noticed that people are always trying to sell them? I have over 30 pairs of crutches and have never paid a cent for one. Just ask the seller if they would like to donate it to your program. Trust me when I say they want them out of their house and they always feel good about helping a local school program. Even if they aren’t in good shape you can use them for spare parts, we always need those.
One last item that we all use in the ATR is ice bags. Have you ever noticed how expensive they are? If you don’t have money in this year's budget, ask a local grocery store if they will donate a few rolls of their produce bags. Even if you have to double bag them, they are free. While the store might not want to do this every year it certainly can free up some money for a new product this year.
These are just a few ideas that you might be able to use to help provide more equipment to your facility. As always if you have other suggestions, feel free to share with the SSATC.