As your school’s sports programs grow, and as your current equipment suffers wear and tear, you’ll eventually need to invest in new pieces for your athletic training facility. With a tight budget, limited space, and a variety of needs; however, it can be tough to decide which items to upgrade or replace.
What’s more, not all equipment is created alike — not by a long shot. Manufacturers offer products in wide ranges of quality and price, not to mention different styles. Do you know which ones you should buy?
While there’s a dizzying array of items on the market, you’ll be able to narrow your search if you apply some key criteria. Following are our top nine tips for evaluating athletic training equipment.
1. Determine your needs.
Are you replacing a few old, worn pieces of equipment? Or are you accommodating growing teams, filling in a new room, or outfitting an entirely new facility?
No matter the situation, you’ll first need to consider the needs of your players and ATCs. What kinds of injuries are occurring most frequently and which ones have become difficult to treat with your current equipment? What deficiencies are causing inefficiencies and poor work quality among your staff? How does your equipment fit the needs of your players and what items will help fill in the gaps?
2. Know your budget.
To avoid purchasing the wrong items — or running out of money before your facility is complete — you’ll need to determine your budget before you shop. Confer with the athletic director, facility manager and other interested parties to find out how much money you’ll be able to spend, and how much “wiggle room” you’ll have for key items.
3. Set priorities.
At all but the most prestigious, well-funded schools, some compromises will have to be made. Once you’ve listed your needs and determined your budget, set your priorities. Decide which equipment must be purchased, which needs are most urgent, and which items can be purchased during the next budget cycle if need be.
4. Function over form.
Modern facilities are often designed with a particular aesthetic in mind. While a polished, uniform appearance is certainly appealing to players, parents, and alumni; your first priority should be your facility’s day-to-day function. Will the pieces you buy make it easier for your ATCs to return athletes to the field? If the answer is no and you’re on a tight budget, you can’t afford to sacrifice function for form.
5. Understand your liabilities.
In considering your priorities, you’ll need to take particular note of your legal liabilities. Your athletes may want new ice baths, whirlpools, or strength training equipment; but if you’re dealing with broken plinths and rickety treatment tables, those will need to be replaced first. Don’t take any chances with faulty equipment; protect your athletes and your school’s bottom line.
6. Verify vendor support.
If you’re investing in new, often expensive equipment, you’ll want to know that the seller backs their products. Buy from companies that offer repairs and replacement parts as needed, and make sure you won’t end up in the middle of a back-and-forth between the manufacturer and distributor.
7. Check reviews.
What are other businesses saying about the brands and products you’re considering? Check online reviews, consult industry peers, and read trade publications to find out what other people are saying. Just as importantly, consult the Better Business Bureau and other market watch organizations to find out whether any complaints have been leveled against the manufacturer.
8. Read up on new modalities.
From laser to ultrasound to biofeedback and more, you’ll want to learn about the latest modalities before you buy – perhaps even before you set your priorities. New research is published every month, often establishing the efficacy of new methods and applications. Even if you haven’t used modalities in the past, the current literature might reveal their utility to your athletes and ATCs.
9. Look for durability.
“Buy nice or buy twice.” The old adage is certainly true when it comes to athletic training equipment. With as much wear and tear as your equipment will take, and given the wide variety of athletes who’ll be using it, it only makes sense to buy durable, high-quality items. Cheaply made equipment will only cost you more in the long run as you allocate more of next year’s budget to replace it.