Longtime area athletic trainer Paul Richter considers himself pretty fortunate.
Not only does he get to do what he loves for a living as an athletic trainer at Black Hill Orthopedic & Spine Center and Rapid City Stevens High School, but he is a big sports fan. The combination is ideal in his mind.
“I really enjoy sports; I enjoy the change of seasons, moving from one to the next, and I really enjoy high school,” Richter said after receiving the Distinguished Service Award from the South Dakota High School Coaches Association earlier this month. “I have worked with colleges and other stuff, but this is a better fit for me. I got lucky about 18 year ago when they were looking to hire and they chose me to be a part of building something new.”
The award is given for outstanding contributions to high school athletics and dedication to the highest and best in high school athletics.
“It was nice to be recognized by some of the coaches that I have worked with over the last 20-some years,” Richter said. “It is nice for them to show some appreciation for the service we have provided and all the medical service we have given them over the years.”
While Richter is employed by Black Hills Orthopedic & Spine Center and is the athletic trainer for Stevens athletics, he also works with other area and state schools. State tournaments are one of his favorite times of each season.
“Just like sports teams or coaches, the highlight every year is when you put in a lot of time and effort with the coaches and athletes, so you want to see them compete and have success,” he said. “There’s a lot of good basketball, football, gymnastics, wrestling — it’s really fun on how it all comes together. If you can be a part of that, it does make you feel good.”
The athletes are bigger, faster and stronger and Richter said their development of the athlete in strength and conditioning has really grown.
“It is fun to help kids develop even down through sixth, seventh or eighth grade. I love to see them transition into young adults and great athletes,” he said.
Another highlight is being able to help the young athlete get back out on the playing field or court. Like a lot of aspects in life or athletics, times have changed. Richter said his profession has changed for the better with the advancement in sports medicine.
Richter said that looking back with how they did things years ago, treatment has really developed over the years. Things have gotten better and the success rate, whether it is ACL surgery or getting them back after a devastating injury.
The way they have treated concussions s in the last 10 years, he added, has been impressive and beneficial for the athletes.
“It has really made my job a little easier dealing with those athletes. Now we have more substantial evidence that we can rely on other than how the athlete is feeling,” he said. “I feel a lot better returning kids to play and into the classroom now.”
Richter has been with Black Hills Orthopedic & Spine Center since 1998 and is a member of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association. He received his bachelor’s degree in biology from Northern State University in Aberdeen.
“We are very proud of Paul and his dedication to keeping athletes healthy and in the game,” said Jay Hammerquist, chief executive officer at Black Hills Orthopedic & Spine Center. “He is a great asset to our team and very deserving of this recognition.”
Richter said he is also proud of how the Black Hills Orthopedic & Spine Center has grown throughout the years and what it has provided for the local athletes.
“Our doctors are always busy and always make time for me when I have an athlete,” he said. “The whole process has changed with the way we have them set up, whether it is surgery or physical therapy. It’s streamlined and it makes my job so much easier. And I know parents appreciate it when you can speed up the process.”
There’s no real off-season for Richter or the athletic trainer. He also enjoys working with the local baseball teams as well as going on the regional rodeo circuit. High school athletics is also just around the corner.
“I always tell people there is usually not a weekend where there isn’t something going on, we just change weather and change facilities. I just prefer to stay busy,” he said.