Big-League Care
Story 148

By John Hay

“Seeing all students as family members, I call all my athletes my kids,” says Jessica Johnson, a certified athletic trainer employed by Adventist Health Tillamook to support Tillamook High School athletics and orthopedic care.

In the United States, one in three public schools have no access to athletic trainers to prevent, diagnose, treat and rehabilitate injuries and illnesses for thousands of high school athletes each year. In her position since 2018, Jessica’s impact on the Tillamook community has had an immeasurable effect on the long-term health of student-athletes, where she identifies injuries on the playing field when seconds matter.

As an athletic trainer on the field and court, Jessica handles evaluations, diagnoses, emergency care and injury rehabilitation. She also serves as a liaison between the high school and the hospital. If she has an athlete that needs treatment and further evaluation, she helps facilitate appointments with the appropriate healthcare provider, fast-tracking the student to safely recover and get back in the game as soon and as safely as possible.

Athletic trainer treating student
Jessica Johnson, Certified Athletic Trainer, evaluates a student injury on the field during a soccer game in Tillamook, Oregon.

Kye Johnson, coach of Tillamook High School’s football team and also Jessica’s husband, relates, “In the 75 years before Tillamook High School had her, they would have historically told student-athletes to ice their injuries or go to a doctor.”

Athletic trainers are the only allied healthcare practitioners trained explicitly in injury prevention for the physically active, as well as patients of all ages, backgrounds and levels of activity. In a long-term effort to support community health, Adventist Health Tillamook provides the community benefit of a full-time athletic trainer and training room to the students at Tillamook High School at no cost to the school district. Athletic trainers that support students can cover a wide range of sports, with particular attention given to activities where acute, overuse and contact injuries are the most prevalent and highest risk. 

As a compassionate caregiver in demanding situations, Jessica sets realistic expectations for her student-athletes for recovery and the future. She sees patients of all ages with fractures, most post-op fractures, and knee and shoulder arthroscopies. She also supports Brett LaFleur, MD, orthopedic surgeon at Adventist Health Tillamook, with bracing or casting during the day before heading out to support student athletes in the afternoons, evenings and weekends in a wide range of sports.

Recently, Jessica celebrated the graduation of the first group of students she supported through high school. She recalls the journey of one of these students, who suffered a significant injury his freshman year and another his senior year. Working together with this student-athlete through his emotions — including the disappointment and frustration of not being able to play — was difficult, but helping him progress through a rehabilitation program toward better long-term results was rewarding for both of them.

“Our students face many challenges on and off the court or field,” Jessica says, “but I see my personal success when I can change minds to lead to more successful health outcomes for students long-term."