Article reposted from Ocean Times Herald
Author: JIM MELARO
Some would view it as having “peace of mind.”
Others might call it a “valuable asset designed to prevent liability issues.”
Still, others prefer to see it as “a life-saving” option.
In any case, having an athletic trainer on hand at high school sporting events has become a necessity over the last 30 years.
March is National Athletic Trainer’s Month so the Times Herald sat down with two of the area’s most respected trainers, John Eaton and Melissa O’Brien, to discuss the importance of their job.
EATON, a graduate of Portville Central School, has worked in the field for almost 40 years, most recently as the athletic trainer for the St. Bonaventure University club teams and the athletic department at Allegany-Limestone.
O’Brien, who graduated from Franklinville, is now employed as the lead athletic trainer at Cole Memorial Hospital and has staffed athletic events at Smethport for the past 15 years.
Portville is the lone school in the Big 30 region with a full-time trainer on staff, Matt Gnan, a graduate of St. Marys Public.
Four area schools have athletic trainers on-site who are contracted out by Cole Memorial: Bradford High (Alisa Cornell, Philadelphia); Otto-Eldred (BriAnne Gleason, Bradford High); Port Allegany (Maggie Boehler, Pittsburgh); and Bolivar-Richburg (Aaron Jackson, Hiram, Ohio).
All four earned their certification from Eaton during his days as an instructor at Pitt-Bradford or O’Brien through her classes at Cole Memorial.
Coudersport and Olean High are in the process of hiring to fill contracts originating at Cole Memorial.
Question No. 1. Why is it so important to have a certified athletic trainer on-site during sporting events?
Eaton: “It’s as important as it’s been for the last 20 years or so. Coaches need to coach and it makes their job easier if they don’t have to worry about the condition of injured athletes. Schools that have contracted athletic trainers allow them to do their job.
“One big reason is the concussion awareness that has filtered down from professional sports.”
O’Brien: “We’re there to help the athletes and not hold them back. I tell the kids, ‘The less work I have to do, the better.’ That means you’re in shape and you’re practicing at the top of your ability. If I have to do something, it’s because I care and I want to see you get better.
“Taking care of an injury now is the best way to keep everyone healthy.”
Question No. 2. What should parents know about athletic trainers who are helping tend to their children’s injuries?
Eaton: “Their minds should be at ease knowing that the coach is not making medical decisions. Coaches have to take basic first-aid classes and get a certificate stating as such before they can coach. But it’s very basic first-aid training and CPR, and that’s it. They don’t know the musculoskeletal system the way we do. They don’t understand the injury mechanism the way we do. They don’t know recovery and rehab procedures like we do.
“Athletic trainers can recognize problems coaches may not be aware of. We’re there to make those decisions. We tell the kids they should not be worried about losing playing time … the sooner we can help make them better, the sooner they can get back out there and help their teammates. It’s like having a good mechanic who points things out with your car before they go bad.”
Question No. 3. How important is it to keep kids on a healthy path?
O’Brien: “If kids don’t participate in athletics, what are they going to do in order to keep active, to get their exercise and to maintain a healthy lifestyle?
“If you’re afraid your child might get hurt, you also have to be thinking, ‘How do I keep them active?’
“The interesting thing about kids who are involved in athletics is that many of them go on and become coaches. They get involved in keeping kids active and they’re carrying on that tradition of competition.”
Question No. 4. What is the importance of conditioning for today’s high school athlete?
O’Brien: “Back when we were in school, you competed in whatever sport was in season. But I don’t think there was an emphasis on training and conditioning like there is today.
“As trainers, one of the things we can do is to remind kids of their goals and keep them on the plus side of proper exercise and good diet in order to be ready for the next season.
“A lot people blame video games for kids being less active today. But there’s a lot more. A lot of kids go out and get jobs at a younger age because they have cars and have to pay for insurance and gas. They need to have time to be a kid and enjoy life.”
Eaton: “In many cases where kids specialize in one sport, we’ve seen studies that show those kids suffer injuries from the overuse of certain muscles in the body.
“Sometimes specializing in one sport can be OK. But to do it hard for 12 months of the year is not good for the body.”
Added O’Brien: “We’ve seen it at Kane over the last few seasons. Their football team has been very successful. Therefore, the kids who are going from football in the fall to either basketball or wrestling in the winter have to make an adjustment. Their bodies are using different muscles. And because they have to have an adjustment period, the success of the Kane basketball and wrestling teams take a hit early in their seasons. The same would hold true for a pitcher coming off a successful wrestling season.”
Question No. 5. What courses do you need to take in order to earn a certification as an athletic trainer?
Eaton: “It’s a college degree that has to be accredited through the National Athletic Trainer’s Association as well as the CAATE (Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education).