Secondary School

Indiana Athletic Trainer an Unsung Hero

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Secondary School

Indiana Athletic Trainer an Unsung Hero

Marion Vruggink grew up near Lexington, Kentucky, the daughter of a small-town family practice physician.

Medicine was in her blood and sports were in her heart.

When she embarked on a professional career, she blended the two.

But it’s not about her role as a well-respected and highly trusted athletic trainer.The more everyone in her field knows, the better.

In 1991, Vruggink partnered with Dave Cobb to produce the first Lafayette Area Sportsmedicine Symposium, meant to educate area coaches, athletic trainers and other health care providers to enhance safety for young athletes.

On Feb. 17, the symposium, co-sponsored by Lafayette Orthopaedic Clinic and Lafayette Rehabilitation Services, successfully ran for the 26th straight year, an event that is free to attend, but this year also encouraged donations that resulted in about $500 being donated to area Unified track and field programs.

“Coaches, at the time (1991) and even now, quite often they are put in position to make decisions they are not trained to do,” Vruggink said. “That was a concern.”

While Indiana law does not require high schools to employ an athletic trainer, Vruggink has served in that role at West Lafayette since 1982.

In that time, she’s mastered the ideal method of running athletic programs from a sportsmedicine standpoint.

“She runs the model athletic training program at the high school level in this country,” said Dr. Robert Hagen of Lafayette Orthopaedic Services, who has been a featured speaker at 25 of the 26 symposiums. “She evaluates problems and talks to the family. She gets information from everybody and the person has the treatment they need. She takes the person through the rehabilitation process. Her training room is so well-respected.”

When Cobb became a co-owner of Lafayette Rehabilitation Services, which opened in 1993, Vruggink strived to make the event a continued success.

While a five-person planning committee structures the Sportsmedicine Symposium each year, Dr. Hagen says it is Vruggink who takes on a brunt of the workload.

“The Sports Symposium is the cornerstone of what she does,” Dr. Hagen said. “She’s educated a lot of coaches on what conditions are with all the speakers she’s brought in.”

Those speakers aren’t necessarily tied to medicine.

They’ve ranged from former Purdue coaches Gene Keady and Jim Colletto to doctors, psychologists, nutritionists, police officers and media members, discussing everything from how to motivate young athletes to drugs to how to grieve when a teammate is lost unexpectedly.

“The symposium is truly an example of utilizing our community’s professional expertise and resources … the best of the best coming together to teach and share information,” Vruggink said.

“There’s so many knowledgeable people right here in our own community and to tap into that, it’s been very special.”

About this series

Each week, the Journal & Courier will feature an Unsung Hero who is working behind the scenes to make a difference in Greater Lafayette.

Share your stories about this Unsung Hero and any you might know on the Journal & Courier’s Facebook page.

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