NATM2016Secondary School

Love of Sport Led New Mexico Athletic Trainer to Career

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NATM2016Secondary School

Love of Sport Led New Mexico Athletic Trainer to Career

March is National Athletic Training Month, so if you didn’t get a chance to take a trainer out to lunch, here’s some food for thought.

Unlike chances and opportunities, which one gets quite a few of in life, you only get one brain.

So it’s of the utmost importance to take care of it.

For most of us, that’s easy: Don’t run into walls, don’t hit yourself in the head with a hammer, and a number of other no-brainers.

If you participate in athletics, especially boxing and martial arts, soccer and football, for example, you have a greater risk of absorbing hits to the head.

And that means the possibility of a concussion or, worse yet, more than one.

The New Mexico Legislature recognized the importance of protecting student-athletes as much as possible and had no trouble passing Senate Bill 137 in February.

It provides for “enhanced safety protocols to protect student athletes and young people who participate in non-scholastic youth athletic activities from brain injury. … establishes procedures, parallel to those for brain injuries related to school athletics, for determining whether an athlete has been injured, and for allowing the injured youth athlete to return to participation. … (and directs the Department of Health to promulgate rules to establish safety protocols, as well as the nature and content of educational materials to be supplied to coaches, youth athletes, and their parents or guardians.”

SB-137 also “extends the period during which a student athlete is barred from participating in athletic activity following a head injury from one week to 240 hours from the hour when the student received the injury.”

Naturally, football, being the favorite sport of most Americans, is the focus. The recent movie “Concussion,” along with the 2012 suicide of former NFL great Junior Seau, is always in the discussion.

“CTE” is the new buzz-abbreviation, more important than DVR and DVD, coming several years after VCR and STD and five decades after LSD was big.

OMG, this is nothing to LOL about, either.

CTE stands for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which, unfortunately, cannot be diagnosed while its victim is alive, but only through postmortem analysis. (See “Concussion” and you’ll understand a lot more.)

Cleveland High School athletic trainer Jeff Archuleta — he’s in his third year at CHS, after spending the first 11 years of his career as the trainer at La Cueva High School — sees injuries to student-athletes on almost a daily basis.

And although he took a lot of heat for declaring that a Storm football player had incurred a concussion in a state semifinal game last year, which resulted in that player initially being ruled ineligible to play the following week in the state championship game, he stands by that decision.

And, Archuleta, 37, said, the new 10-day period is better, but not the be-all, end-all to concussions.

“Twelve to 14 days is your average recovery time,” he said. “The only thing I don’t like is if we get somebody misdiagnosed, we can get into some problems.”

Football, of course, isn’t the only sport where concussions are possibilities: “any game which you can get knocked to the ground by” has the potential for concussions.

Still, he said, “My goal is to get your butt out there as fast as we can.”

But he’s always going to err on the side of caution when it involves a head injury.

“The hardest part about this is we’re going to take the most conservative route,” he said. “And that’s the reason why. I know it’s not what people want to hear — as far as the team, the coaches, even the parents or the fans always want — but you’re always going to go the most-conservative route with it, to make sure that ultimately the player’s safety is No. 1. Not playing, not winning, not anything else like that. … We have to take that outlook on it.”

Archuleta said something important for people to know about his role is that “they don’t fully understand the resources that they have.” He estimated he recently saved thousands of dollars for the parents of an injured Storm player during his recent rehabilitation.

“Fifty dollars in co-pay for a physical therapy session; a treatment session, an evaluation, things like that,” he said. “The resource of it is phenomenal: Say if you sprained your ankle, you go into the doctor, even if you have insurance you’re still going to spend $50 to $75 for a co-pay … whereas, with us, we can, one, get you a good, solid medical look at it and, two, if we think you need something from there, we can facilitate the care of that to get you in sooner.

“So I think it’s basically benefiting on so many levels,”

It’s a job he loves, and the reason he entered the field is another story all in itself.

“It’s not rare for me to put in a 70- to 80-hour work week,” Archuleta said. But, he added, “I chase balls and kids around, so I have fun all the time.

“If I didn’t have a passion for the sport and a buy-in to the teams, I couldn’t do the hours I work,” he said.

When he thought about working at a college or a high school, he chose the high school setting because he knew he’d always have Sundays off — and a friend of his who chose the college route once worked 94 days in a row, “making less than $20,000 a year.”

“Jeff is one of the best trainers in the state,” CHS Athletic Coordinator Larry Chavez said, “Ultimately, Jeff is here for our student-athletes and he looks out for what’s best for them.”

And if that means sitting out an important game or match, so be it.

“The focus is always on winning, but the important thing is your health,” Archuleta said, enjoying the return of student-athletes to the playing field even more than seeing trophies hoisted.

“We had a young man this year who had knee surgery at the beginning of football season. Had he gone a more-aggressive way about (rehabbing), he probably could have been back two months sooner,” Archuleta said, “but probably would have had long-term problems. … The health of the person long-term is always going to be more important.”

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