Article reposted from UBnow
Author: MICHAEL ANDREI
UB Director of Sports Medicine Brian Bratta saw firsthand the power of the performances at the 2016 Paralympic Games.
It reaffirmed something he already knew about para-athletes.
“They are just as determined, just as tenacious as competitors who are not disabled. The competition is intense,” says Bratta, one of two volunteer athletic trainers working with the U.S. para-swimming team at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
“They are athletes in every sense of the word.”
Paralympic sport is high performance: After 10 days of competition, 396 Paralympic and 210 world records were broken during the 2016 Paralympics, which ran from Sept. 7-18.
This year’s Paralympics also set an attendance mark. On Sept. 10, the first Saturday of the games, a record 170,000 people were drawn to Barra Olympic Park — more than had attended even the busiest day of the Olympic Games.
The 2016 Paralympics was Bratta’s second as a volunteer athletic trainer for the U.S. para-swimmers. He also traveled with the team to the London Paralympics in 2012.
“The spirit of the athletes just stands out for me,” he says.
“There are athletes who are born with a disability and who decide early on ‘I am going to be an athlete and work my hardest,’ and they are some of the best athletes I have ever worked with.”
In addition to the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics, Bratta served as an athletic trainer for the U.S. para-swimming team for the 2011 Parapan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.
“Together with another athletic trainer, I have worked exclusively with the para-swimming team. For the 2016 Games, the whole team met in Houston and had a kind of pre-games camp. Then we travelled to Rio, to practice in the pools and acclimatize there.”
Both athletic trainers stayed with the U.S. para-swimmers for the entire 10-day meet. In addition, Bratta points out, the Paralympic Games provided a sports medicine clinic in the athletes’ village staffed with physicians, chiropractors, physical therapists and massage therapists who were available for all of the athletes.
“Mornings we did the preliminaries, left the Paralympic Village at 6:30 a.m. We did some treatments for the athletes if we had to, and then we were back for the finals every evening.
“We typically did not get back to the village until 9:30 or 10 o’clock every night, so it was a full plate, long days,” he says, adding that working with these athletes made it all worthwhile. “They are all phenomenal, hard-working athletes and being with them, working with them, was just an amazing experience.”
Volunteering for the USOC
Bratta’s interest in working with para-athletes began at Michigan State, where he earned an MS in athletic training in 2002. He started teaching and working as a clinical coordinator in the university’s Athletic Education Department in 2006, and worked exclusively with the Spartan baseball team from 2011-15.
“While I was working at Michigan State as a full-time staff member, there were many people in the athletics and sports medicine areas there — my mentors — who were volunteering with a number of the teams in the Olympic and Paralympic games,” Bratta recalls.
“People I worked with, who had had the opportunity to work multiple, different Olympic Games in France and California back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, told me it was a very positive, phenomenal experience for them.
“They passed it along to myself and a few others in athletic training, and said, ‘Hey, you really should look into doing this.’ It has been a great opportunity ever since.”
Bratta explains the U.S Olympic Committee’s Sports Medicine Program is structured to assess volunteers’ abilities and personalities.
“They want to see how you work with people,” he says. “Then the next step is where you get the opportunity to start traveling internationally — at the Pan American Games or World Games, for example. And the final step is where you get to work the Olympic Games or the Paralympic Games.”
Bratta came to UB in 2015 as director of sports medicine, with responsibilities for supervising the department and developing policies and guidelines, as well as working with UB’s student-athletes.
“I really enjoy doing that, having the chance to get to know our students, talk with them and help them to succeed athletically,” he says. “That is one of the things I don’t ever want to give up.”
Bratta also says he hopes to be able to continue working with para-athletes.
“It has been a very gratifying experience. You have the opportunity to meet — and work with — some amazing individuals who are also amazing athletes,” he says.
“Outside of competition, it is a little bit different because these are individuals who are very appreciative of the opportunities given to them. They are very appreciative of the help that has been afforded to them.
“I have gotten the chance to get to know many unique athletes who are all good people,” he says.
“And we do keep in touch with each other — Facebook is a wonderful thing. You never know who you are going to hear from — I frequently get texts, ‘Hey, how are you doing?’