You never know when or where you'll be needed
A lot of attention is paid to the players and coaches of our local high school teams as they gear up for the new school year and the cornucopia of sports available to them.
They, athletics directors and sports reporters aren’t the only ones who have to work overtime to get ready for the year ahead, however.
Whoever the athlete, whatever the sport, most schools offer athletic training services to help keep our young local athletes healthy and help them succeed on the field, the court, the links, the mats, the track, wherever.
Every school handles its training staff differently — from the number of trainers to who exactly employs and/or pays them — but in the end, professionals such as Brittany Delaney at Streator Township High School, Joe Haywood and Eric Buscher at Ottawa Township High School, Eric Peruski at Marquette Academy, and Gina Martin, James Schaefer, Steve Korsan and Kele Cioflec at La Salle-Peru High School are practically members of the team, whatever team it might be, and a giant part of their schools’ athletic programs.
And it starts in what many consider to be the offseason.
“It’s year-round for us,” said Haywood, a 34-year veteran and the head athletic trainer at OTHS. “We do a lot of our planning in the spring for the upcoming year. We look back at the previous seasons, I make notes throughout the year and Eric goes online, goes to meetings, sees what’s new out there and what’s coming down the pike. Then in the summer, we go through everything and decide which way we want to go.”
“It starts way before the school year does,” said Delaney, entering her 10th year as athletic trainer at Streator High, now through Results Physical Therapy and Fitness. “You’re doing the ImPACT concussion testing most of June, you’re meeting with players and coaches, you’re preparing the medical kits for every team, you’re doing inventory for the coming year.
“The offseason is really just another season.”
Concussion and head injury awareness have vastly changed the job of the athletic trainer, Delaney and Haywood agree. A large part of their time before the season starts — be it fall, winter or spring — is spent creating baselines for head injury programs such as ImPACT (Immediate Post Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) or the King-Devick, which Haywood and Buscher began using this school year.
“It was tough in the past, because players and parents and coaches couldn’t see what we could see when it came to concussions, and it could be tough to convey,” said Haywood. “Now, with technology and all of the information that’s out there, people are becoming more and more aware of it.
“These kids are our responsibility. We can’t be flippant with their health … especially now seeing the long haul of it and what could happen, how (even seemingly minor head injuries) could debilitate them for the rest of their lives.”
The instinct might be to point toward football as the home of most such injuries, but that simply isn’t the case. That’s why trainers do their best to stay involved and have a presence at the events of as many teams over as many sports as possible, said Delaney.
“Other than football, soccer is our next biggest sport for injuries usually, but it changes from year to year,” she said. “This year, I’ve had more volleyball injuries than soccer, and the past few years I’ve had more concussions on the cheerleading team than I’ve had on any other team, including football.
“You never know when or where you’ll be needed.”
“Some of our worst injuries I’ve seen over the years have been in track and baseball,” Haywood said. “With any injury, they should come see us no matter how insignificant it is as soon as possible.”