Athletic trainers are widely and publicly known for helping traditional sport athletes, such as football and basketball players, recover from injuries, but for more than 25 years officially, these trainers have been helping out dancers and musicians in the performing arts.
Performing arts specialization for athletic trainers started at Indiana University back in 1995 with John Schrader, associate dean for student academic affairs for the School of Public Health, after a request from the then-chair of the department of ballet, which had a crisis epidemic of injuries.
With the intensity of the fall ballet immediately turning to “The Nutcracker,” a lot of overuse conditions appeared in the dancers, Schrader said.
It was not until 1997 that Schrader expanded the program because of the demands from the dancers, which eventually grew to include contemporary dance.
The current year is a trial year to expand the athletic training performing arts program again, with Alyssa McPherson working with the Marching Hundred on game days.
McPherson, officially hired through the kinesiology department, works with ROTC, the Marching Hundred, ballerinas and contemporary dancers, as well as some other musicians who come to see her. She oversees the program as the clinical supervisor for these athletic training providing services.
“I think, if you ask some of our students – the undergraduate students will rotate through our settings, too – if you ask them, they would say they are very surprised at how similar they (the injuries) are,” she said.
Schrader said only two students are admitted into the graduate program for athletic training for the performing arts because it is more of a niche program.
Athletic trainers for dancers are available at every performance, tech week and rehearsal, as well as being available for walk-in sessions in the facilities in the ballet and dance buildings.
“As a whole, I think the athletic training community has, at this point, kind of recognized dance as being a need,” McPherson said.
“I think getting athletic trainers to realize the need amongst musicians, theater performers, opera performers, et cetera, is growing, but there still is some need for that education.”
Since the program’s beginning in 1995, a lot more is available to the students who use the athletic trainers, Schrader said.
Instead of working with the acute conditions and crisis management, which was all that could be done for the most part at the beginning, more preventive measures can be taken to prevent overuse conditions from becoming severe.
Schrader said he continues working with the performers on a volunteer basis, even though he is in an administrative position now, because he enjoys it.
“I love working with the performers,” Schrader said.
There are hopes to expand the program cautiously because of the increase of interest in this particular area. Depending upon the interest in Jacobs School of Music, there could be an increase in the program involving musicians and the Marching Hundred, if there is interest beyond the current trial period.
McPherson said she would like to have extended hours for the musicians and marchers when she is available to them as she is to the dancers.
“Hopefully we’re moving to the point where having athletic trainers isn’t a luxury, but a necessity in most places (in the performing arts),” McPherson said.