College and University

You Bend Um, We Mend Um: The Life of an Athletic Trainer


College and University

You Bend Um, We Mend Um: The Life of an Athletic Trainer

Article reposted from The Grizzly
Author: Jonny Cope

One of the more underrated attributes an athlete can have is the ability to stay healthy. Many overlook the importance of overall health and focus on talent, determination, and the will to win. While these are certainly part of what makes a great athlete, they do not mean very much if an athlete is injured all of the time. Now, it’s unreasonable to suggest that injuries shouldn’t occur. No matter the sport, athletics push the human body to its limits, making it more susceptible to injury.  This is why athletes at Ursinus are fortunate to have excellent athletic training staff and facilities in the region.

Located in the lower level of the Floyd Lewis Bakes Center, the Ursinus College Sports Medicine Clinic is home to Ursinus’ talented and dependable athletic trainers. Head athletic trainer Pam Chlad and associate trainers Kathy Wright, Michelle Vande Berg, Akinori Kashiwagi, Colin Dixon, Jeff Wolfe and Beth Ward work diligently every day to make sure that Ursinus athletes  are strong and healthy enough to compete.

“We have a very experienced staff that puts an emphasis on continuing education in order to provide the best care to our student-athletes,” said Dixon. This is no easy task, as according to the Ursinus College website, the college has 25 intercollegiate athletic teams and more than 550 student athletes.

In order to deal with such a large number of teams and athletes on campus, the trainers divide and conquer each team and season. Chlad tends to football, gymnastics and both men’s and women’s golf. Wright does men’s soccer and men’s and women’s tennis. Vande Berg takes care of athletes from field hockey, women’s basketball, baseball, and men’s and women’s swimming. Kashiwagi is responsible for football, men’s and women’s indoor track, and lacrosse.

In addition to the trainers working in the sports medicine clinic, Ursinus has Eric Hoffman as the strength and conditioning coach for all varsity athletic programs with assistant Paul Searles. To complement the work of the athletic trainers, “having a year-round sport-specific training program is vital,” noted Colin Dixon.

Dixon, a 2007 graduate of West Chester University, works closely with the Ursinus cross country and volleyball teams. In order to perform his job at the highest level, he believes that building solid relationships with coaches and athletes is essential to helping athletes avoid serious injury. “A good relationship and effective communication between coaches and athletic trainers are vital for the health of our athletes,” said Dixon.

Coach Carl Blickle, in the same vein, has worked on forging a better relationship with the sports medicine clinic since he took over as leader of the cross country and track and field programs 3 years ago. “The athletic trainers are the first line of defense against all injuries [and] effective communication between all parties has been key to [catching] many injuries,” he said.

Unfortunately, injuries still occur. Some of the more common injuries Dixon sees are what he calls “overuse injuries”. These include shin splints, patella-femoral syndrome (a knee condition which deteriorates the cartilage under the knee cap), lower back pain, and more. To treat these injuries, the trainers use a combination of electrical muscle stimulus (which involves the use of electrical pulsation to strengthen muscles), massage, ultrasound, and cold therapies to combat and control inflammation. They also prescribe specific exercises to help prevent injuries from reoccurring.

Ursinus College cross country and track runner Evan Cirafesi knows firsthand how difficult it can be to work through injuries as he has missed significant time throughout his running career due to shin splints and stress fractures. “While running at Ursinus I’ve been dealing with on and off shin splints,” said Cirafesi. “Colin has shown me multiple strength exercises I can do for my lower legs to help prevent [further] injury.” Fellow runner Joe Iuliucci dealt with similar overuse issues, working through plantar fasciitis and tendonitis. “When I went to Jeff Wolfe during outdoor, he determined what was wrong and gave me specific instructions on how to handle my issues,” said Iuliucci. “Because of that, I was healthy enough to end the season as planned by racing the 10k at conferences.”

The prevention and treatment of injuries occur mostly behind the scenes, unbeknownst to many fans and spectators. The Sports Medicine Clinic and the athletic trainers have proven indispensable to the success of the Ursinus College athletic programs. Moreover, the new addition of strength and conditioning coaches Eric Hoffman and Paul Searles will aid in the work of keeping athletes active in their sports.  Thanks to these hardworking staff members and great facilities, Ursinus’ athletes are in good hands.