I’ve been to countless high school sporting events during my time in Manitowoc, and on Sept. 9, I witnessed something anyone involved in sports at any level hopes to avoid.
During the Week 4 football match-up between Valders and Two Rivers, midway through the fourth quarter, Two Rivers Raiders receiver Alec Dewane laid motionless on the turf.
The fans, players and coaches from both sides remained silent as the training staff attended to the standout senior.
A stretcher was brought out, and Dewane was taken to receive medical attention. The following day, it was known he didn’t suffer any of a multitude of serious injuries that could have resulted from a blow to the head.
In the startling silence, it occurred to me how little attention or fanfare countless individuals who are involved with prep sports receive, especially athletic trainers.
Their titles describe only part of their job description as individuals trained to help those in need.
Sure, they get mentioned in the programs and maybe get thanked over the PA system at some point, but theirs is sometimes a thankless job.
Almost anytime a doctor or medical professional is needed, it’s in the privacy of a doctor’s office or clinic setting, but athletic trainers have the job of assessing a situation in front of up to hundreds of fans.
Anytime your job entails working with teenagers, a certain demeanor is required to keep the patient calm and at ease. That pressure is amplified 100 fold when in the heat of competition.
The trainer has to make sure there’s no immediate harm to the player in a split second while dealing with their urge to just keep playing no matter the severity.
Thankfully, more often than not when a trainer is needed it’s usually for a cramp or bruise. Some have joked their main purpose is to carry ice around for people to use.
But when an incident like the one involving Dewane arises, they’re ready to spring into action.
Spend enough time on a sideline, bench or in a dugout and you’ll hear them talking with players to ease their worries.
Injuries are simply a fact of the matter — barring enveloping players in bubble wrap, they’re going to happen as much as mothers and grandmothers fret over even the possibility.
A lot of times, they’ll be minor and a player can resume play in a few minutes. Other times, it’ll be a small matter, but one that requires caution.
For all the skills 99 percent of coaches possess, advanced medical training is not one of them, so it’s up to the trainer to advise the coach if a player can return to action.
When dealing with injuries, playing it safe is almost always the correct course of action.
Trainers are on-site as a precaution, and most fans won’t give their attendance much of a second thought.
When a serious injury occurs, though, I bet they’re glad the trainer is around.
Tom Dombeck can be reached at 920-686-2965, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter at @Tom_Dombeck