Article reposted from The Lion’s Roar
Author: Regina Pergola
In addition to the medical support the athletes already receive, there is a special program in place to help prevent injuries. The sports medicinal staff on campus specifically helps athletes with preventive measures, injury rehabilitation and therapy.
The staff consists of assistant athletic director for sports medicine Nathan Quebedeaux, his assistant athletic trainers Max Whitsell, Emily Gusew and Jessica Van Sweden and additional graduate assistants. Their goal is to help prevent, evaluate and manage injuries and provide on-site emergency care and after care to the athletes.
“A lot of people get confused as to what an athletic trainer is,” said Van Sweden. “So, we’re all certified athletic trainers and we’re different. A lot of people confuse it with a personal trainer, like weight lifting and things like that, like a coach. That’s neither of what we do.”
Van Sweden focuses on providing care to the softball team but is not limited to the one sport.
“We do things to prevent injuries,” said Van Sweden. “For example, I work with the softball team, and I do a shoulder strengthening program. It’s kind of like a rehab program, but they don’t have injuries. So, it’s to strengthen their shoulders to help prevent injuries.”
There are other areas that the trainers are proficient in to assist the athletes.
“We’re also trained in injury management,” said Van Sweden. “So, when someone breaks their leg, we’re trained in how to manage and splint that. We’re also trained in how to rehabilitate injuries, kind of like a physical therapist. We use a lot of the same techniques, but it’s different.”
Each of the trainers have a master’s degree, but feel a Ph.D. would be unnecessary for the position and career they are in now.
“As far as academics go, we all have master’s degrees,” said Whitsell. “All three of us do. If you’re a division one athletic trainer, typically you’re going to have a master’s degree. If you’re going to be a professor of athletic training or something like that, you’re going to get a Ph.D.”
While the trainers might not pursue another degree, they are responsible for upkeeping their degree through certification courses. Their education and the upkeep is sometimes unrecognized.
“Our education is a very specific education, and we’re considered a medical profession by the American Medical Association,” said Van Sweden. “People don’t understand really what we do unless you’re directly involved with athletics either on a high school level or in college. They don’t understand that we’re actually educated. People don’t think we know certain things.”
Not every university has an athletic training program. In addition, there is an application process for acceptance into the program. There is extra certification, and at the end, there is a board exam similar to that of nurses. There will also be adjustments to the qualifications needed to work as an athletic trainer.
“They’re changing it in the future in the next few years,” said Van Sweden. “They’re making some changes to the curriculum to make us a more respected medical profession. They’re changing it to only a grad program. You would get your undergrad degree in like kinesiology or something and then go do athletic training in grad school.”
The trainers currently on staff at the university have their masters, but at the time that they received their degree, it was not required. Other athletic trainers have not continued their education past a bachelor’s degree.
“Right now, the high school trainers might not have their master’s degree and only have an undergraduate degree,” said Whitsell, who specifically assists the baseball team.
For the Fall 2016 semester, the trainers opened the sports medicine room at 5:30 a.m. and closed up shop around 7 p.m. The trainers help athletes that have recently gone through surgery with any treatment they might need and pre-practice treatment for any athlete that needs it.
They attend the practices helping with the stretching. At the practices, they are actively involved in preventing injuries and providing emergency care during the practice. Post practice is the cleaning up of facilities and seeing if the athletes need anything such as being stretched, massaged or evaluated and addressing issues that happen during practice.
“Part of the stuff we do in the morning is like people would come in, something happened to them and sometimes they would tell us right away,” said Whitsell. “A big part of our job is evaluating injuries, deciding how it happened, what we need to do from there to stop it from happening again.”
In the middle of the semester when multiple sports are played at once, the medicinal staff is busier than other times of the semester. The trainers not only help with treatment and rehabilitation, but are also responsible for being at each practice.
“That’s where the big team aspect comes in,” said Gusew. “Sometimes it might mean that we will go to two or three practices a day.”
This can mean extra stress for the trainers, as it is in addition to their scheduled days.
“There’s been days when I think I’ve covered four sports in one day,” said Van Sweden. “I think there was one day I covered softball, football, baseball and basketball. We’ve all done things like that.”
Assessing the athlete helps with evaluations later in the season, and the trainers make sure each athletes conditions are noted before they start the season.
“As each of our athletes come in at the beginning of every year, we take them through a physical, we assess if they’re in condition, if there’s any issues that we need to note before they just start going,” said Gusew. “We kind of put a lot of that in there too.”
The other medical staff is an extension from the athletic trainers. As the ones that are at the practices or games in which an athlete is hurt, they are able to give descriptions of what happened to any attending health care provider. Athletes may have issues that aren’t specifically physical injuries. The trainers provide assessment and care for these issues as well or refer the athletes as needed.
“We also deal with the orthopedic stuff, the general medical stuff then we also are able to refer their opinion to psychological counseling or any kind of eating disorders or psychological disorders,” said Gusew. “We’ve learned how to recognize those things, so if there’s anyone we think needs that sort of assistance, we refer them. We refer the counseling center here on campus. We have a good relationship with them. We refer them to whatever care they need.”
The associations with other medical care providers is essential to assisting the athletic trainers and providing the athletes with the best care possible.
“It doesn’t have to be orthopedic,” said Van Sweden. “Things can come up that are out of our care. We’ve created a relationship with those doctors and nurses and our athletes have an opportunity to see them here to help coordinate care in the sense that they do have a sore throat, if their stomach is bothering them, do they have a kind of gen med thing. We help coordinate and facilitate some of that.”
The Sports Medicine office is located on the second floor of the Dugas Center.