The surrounding five schools are serviced by three professional athletic trainers in Tom Truedson at Detroit Lakes, Kate Ihle in Frazee and Mahnomen and Julia Carr in Waubun and Lake Park-Audubon.
March is National Athletic Training Month and this year’s theme is a safer approach to work, life and sport.
Each trainer has a different but tangential story in how they got into the field mixing a love of athletics and the medical field.
All three also had a moment of injury while they were playing sports as young people and their interaction with sports trainers at the time paved the way to their careers.
“I loved sports and medicine,” said Ihle. “I’m going to put them together and this is going to be a great gig.”
Carr replaced Sean Degerstrom at Lake Park-Audubon. Degerstrom, now and instructor and assistant athletic trainer at the University of North Dakota, had a hand in getting both Ihle and Carr to the area.
Truedson replaced Michelle Sonnenberg in Detroit Lakes after interning and working five seasons with the New York Mets.
Carr also had a Major League Baseball affiliation interning for the San Diego Padres in the Dominican Republic.
Ihle traveled with NDSU football and basketball teams at NDSU and Concordia during her time in college.
Being an athletic trainer is a mix of fun, long hours and an ever-changing work day.
“The whole family, work balance with the nights and weekends, it’s tough,” said Truedson.
Trainers can work upwards of 60 hours per week during the winter season on days that start in the morning and go well into the evening.
“Eventually, nights and weekends and 60 hours per week in the winter isn’t going to be fun anymore,” said Ihle.
The field of study mandates continuing education and there are many different career avenues to pursue. Change is an option.
“It’s interesting,” said Carr. “I do have a lot of options, interests and desires. I’m really interested in health and wellness. I’m curious to see how I can fit my athletic knowledge into some sports psychology.”
The job itself is changing regularly with the onset of the physician extender role where athletic trainers work in a clinic alongside doctors during the day and provide outreach to the schools in the evening.
“It’s pretty exciting,” said Truedson.
“We can speed patients through, help the nurses and save time for doctors,” said Ihle.
Trainers work to provide faster solutions and help save patient’s time and money.
“Ultimately, the value is underappreciated,” said Truedson. “Just the number of ER trips alone that we can eliminate and save. We’re better utilized working with parents compared to sitting at games. We’re working one-on-one with doctors and the patient. We’re covering these events in the community, but that interaction with the patient is the big thing.”
Becoming an athletic trainer is, in itself, great experience for the actual job.
Ihle started with a class of 45 students that graduated only five.
“If you didn’t love it, you didn’t last very long,” she said. “You either love it or you’re done.”
“You’ve got to be dedicated, for sure,” said Truedson.
All three trainers share that dedication and the desire for more learning.
“I have a love of learning and wanted to keep on going,” said Carr. “No day is exactly the same. There are new challenges every single day.”
Another hurdle is obtaining mandated national certification – a test where the pass/fail rate is roughly 50 percent.
“It’s definitely not easy,” said Truedson.
Getting over the many hurdles to work in a field that presents a constant variety of challenges is what drives trainers. They match the motivation for their jobs with the drive of the athletes and do all of that with little back-up.
“If something crazy goes down on the field it’s all me,” said Carr. “That’s all my call.”
Trainers are in charge on the field of play from an injured player to setting up protocol with ambulatory workers on site.
“In the heat of the moment, you have to know who is doing what,” said Truedson. “The prep beforehand with the paramedics and EMTs is crucial.”
Trainers are busy before games with taping, stretching and pre-game work with the players, sometimes with a line out the training room door.
“You have to multitask, big time,” Truedson said.
The presence of professional medical personnel at games takes a lot of pressure off coaches and administration.
“We’re now a liaison between parents, doctors and school administration,” said Carr.
Trainers provide consistency, a sense of security and essential communication between everyone involved.
“We are an advocate for the athletes, especially in the realm of concussions and what we know now,” Carr said. “Also letting parents know they have someone to talk to about their kid’s injuries and reassurance and here’s what we need to do.”
Trainers also contribute to research, especially with concussions as they are witness to the injuries as they happen.
“We’re on the front lines,” said Ihle.
“Trainers are the ones conducting this type of research on ACLs, Tommy Johns, and concussions,” said Truedson. “Not just some guy sitting in a lab somewhere. We’re all in this together and usually the ones collecting this data.”
The field is also expanding beyond athletics to the performing arts and many industrial settings.
“There are lots of interesting areas that we’re starting to get into, other than the traditional setting,” said Ihle.
Athletic trainers provide many options to players, coaches and parents and work in a field that is demanding, but also has an innumerable amount of options for success, enjoyment and variety as a career.
For the trainers at the schools in this region, they’re job is a welcome challenge.
“It is a fun job,” said Carr. “Watching kids grow, it’s really awesome.”