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Atlanta Falcons name Emory Healthcare’s Karen Cantrell ‘Athletic Trainer of the Year’ for high school sports

Karen Cantrell, an athletic trainer at Emory Healthcare, was named “Atlanta Falcons Athletic Trainer of the Year” during the Falcons’ inaugural High School Football Awards Show that celebrated the best in youth football programs in Georgia.

The award was presented during an event held at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta and emceed by Fox 5 Atlanta, WAGA-TV, sports anchor and reporter Cody Chaffins. The show was the first of its kind for the Atlanta Falcons and modeled similar to the ESPYS, highlighting youth football, both flag and tackle, boy’s high school tackle and girl’s high school flag football.

Cantrell is the head athletic trainer at Northview High School in Johns Creek, Ga. She works with hundreds of youth athletes at the school in sports across the athletic program, including the Jr. Titans Football. She has worked as a certified athletic trainer in such settings as physical therapy clinics, movie productions and high school, collegiate and professional sports.

“I do love my job,” Cantrell says. “My office setting is not the same every day. I have different kids who come and see me every day for many different needs. We really get to be a part of the community where our schools are located.”

Emory Sports Medicine Center currently has partnerships with more than 25 metro-area high schools with athletic trainer teams and physicians stationed at each school to oversee the safety of athletic programs.

Emory Healthcare is the official team health care provider of the Atlanta Falcons, as well as the Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Hawks and the Atlanta Dream.

“Athletic trainers have a wide scope of responsibilities, whether it be preventing injuries or managing them on the playing field and at school,” says Scott Boden, MD, director of the Emory Musculoskeletal Institute. “When injuries are sustained, our athletic trainers are there assisting in the recovery.”

Cantrell grew up in Pound, Virginia, where she graduated from Pound High School. She went to University of Virginia’s College at Wise (UVA-Wise) where she earned her bachelor of science degree in biology with a concentration in sports medicine in 2000.

During her time at UVA-Wise, she worked with all athletic teams including, football, basketball, baseball, softball, tennis, volleyball and cross country. She moved to Atlanta to attend Life University in Marietta, Georgia, to pursue her master’s degree in sports injury management. Cantrell was certified by the NATA BOC (National Athletic Trainers’ Association Board of Certification) and licensed in the State of Georgia in 2003.

“Karen goes above and beyond her role and handles it with compassion, loyalty and has a really great ability to communicate with both student athletes and their families,” says Sean Morgan, varsity soccer coach at Northview High School. “She is exceptionally loved by the parents, admired by the athletes and our coaching team couldn’t do without her.”

Assistant soccer coach Kirk Parham agreed, adding, “We play through the rain and we play through the freezing temperatures sometimes and she’s always got that positive and upbeat personality.”

The High School Football Awards Show was attended by more than 100 high school athletes and coaching staff, as well as members of the Atlanta Falcons front office and players. Falcons representatives on hand during the ceremony included Rich McKay, president and CEO, head coach Arthur Smith and Falcons running back Mike Davis.

During the event, the Falcons also honored and awarded league initiatives such as Coach of the Week and Coach of the Year, as well as a special “Atlanta Falcons Trailblazer Award.”


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