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Should high school players expect 'pro-level' treatment?

From high school games on the Main Line to World Cup games in Germany, Justin's seen it all on the sidelines. This week, he shares some similarities and differences in the two settings.

With the start of high school soccer, we can all think back to our athletic days: sitting in a cramped locker room waiting to get our ankles taped, hoping they have any favor of Gatorade other than lemon-lime. Butterflies in our stomachs as we wait for game time. So how do these high school experiences compare to a professional soccer sideline and locker room?

Parents always tell me they want their child to be treated just like the pros. When it comes to injuries sustained on the field, they are. The care the high school athletes receive is actually more similar than one would expect. An ankle sprain is an ankle sprain and the high school player is treated just about the same as the pro. We perform a quick injury assessment to determine the severity and if it is minor, tape the ankle, and get the player back on the field.

If it is more serious, we tell the coach to call for a sub and get the player to the bench for ice. The level of care is identical for concussions as no player, whether high school or pro, is allowed to return to the game if he or she has a concussion.

The biggest difference is the limited subs in soccer at the professional level. In high school, we have time to get the player to the bench and thoroughly evaluate them to see if he or she can return to the game. In the pros, we are limited to 3-7 subs depending on the match.  And without timeouts like in other sports, we have about 2-3 minutes to decide whether the player can return. You could say that the pressure to get the player back on the field is greater in the pros—but have you been to a high school game recently?  Sometimes I feel there is more pressure from the coach and parents at the high school level than there is on any pro team.

But there is a big difference regarding the individual attention the pro players get from an equipment standpoint. Game day uniforms are set out in the locker with little specifics for each player. One player wants the tags cut out of his shorts while another wants the liner cut out of his. Some have four different pairs of cleats ready for him in front of his locker while another only brings one pair with him on the bus.  Let's just pray he doesn't forget them back at the hotel.

One player has a cup of water and a shot of orange Gatorade with a packet of Gatorlytes waiting for him in his locker after warm-ups. Another prefers that one staff member massage his calves but someone else tapes his ankles. Post-game protein shakes are offered to players while they're sitting in the cold tubs and make sure you don't forget a strawberry one for you know who.

As you can see, there are a lot of differences between the high school and pro athlete, but the medical care is not one of them. When it comes to injuries, all the players I work with get the same level of care. The pros are the ones who can ask for a specific color of tape for their ankles and they know that I will find it for them. The high school player gets two choices—white or white?

Read more Sports Doc for Sports Medicine and Fitness.