Professional Sports

Fort Wayne Komets rallying around athletic trainer’s daughter


Article reposted from News Sentinel

With a smile that lights up her eyes and a giggle that is a gift from God, 4-year-old Makayla Willett has some of Fort Wayne’s toughest and strongest athletes willing to do just about anything for her. She also might be more resilient than all of them.

Makayla’s dad is Fort Wayne Komets athletic trainer Matt Willett so she’s around the rink and the team frequently, but one place the players never expected to find her was at Lutheran Children’s Hospital. When the team made their recent annual Christmas visit, Makayla and her mom and dad were there for what to them has become a normal, weekly visit, but it’s something that would terrify any other parents.

Makayla deals with Idiopathic Thrombocytopenia Purpura (ITP), a disease that afflicts between 4.3 and 5.3 kids per 100,000 and limits her production of platelets which are critical to clotting and stopping bleeding. A normal count is 150,000 to 450,000, but Makayla’s counts have bounced between as low as 4,000 and as high as 73,000.

There’s no consistency so she suffers horrific bruises. If she runs into the corner of a couch, instead of a normal 7-to-10 day window for a bruise, she’ll have a deep, dark bruise for at least three weeks, and simple wounds like a paper cut or a hangnail can be serious challenges.

RELATED: Platelet Disorder Support Association

“A normal cut that would take 30 seconds to stop on any child, could take five-to-10 minutes for her,” Matt Willett said. “When you go for a blood draw, the puncture wound bleeds for 10 minutes and instantly bruises, when in most kids you never even see the stick point. She smashed her finger between a chair and a table at school, and her finger turned completely black.”

Maybe obviously, at times medical personnel have questioned possible abuse until the parents have explained their situation.

The biggest worry is that she somehow suffers a head wound because that could require a quick emergency room visit. A bloody nose was once a 10-minute affair.

“This is just the roller coaster we get to ride,” Jenny Willett said calmly. “It’s normal for us at this point.”

No one knows the cause, though the Willetts have heard four or five possibilities from doctors who are sometimes educating themselves about the disease as much as her parents. It’s not thought to be hereditary or genetic, but her parents have searched their own medical records and memories to see if there were any similar incidents when they were children.

One of Makayla’s unique factors she didn’t experience any symptoms until she was 3 years old when an Aug. 16, 2016, lab test showed her platelets had dropped to 11,000. An infusion pushed them back to 32,000 and the week after that the numbers went to 271,000 but then dropped back to 113,000 to 96,000 to 45,000. By December 2016 they had rebounded to 132,000, but by March they had dropped again to 36,000. Recently, they were recorded at 73,000, but last week they were all over the place.

The Willetts have a standing lab order at Dupont Hospital for weekly blood draws to check Makayla’s platelet count. Her current treatment consists of weekly injections which the Willetts do themselves at home. There are nearly daily calls to the office of Dr. Lubua Ahmed at Lutheran Children’s Hospital to check lab results, adjust the dosage or ask for advice. Since August, Makayla and her parents have visited the doctor’s office 15 times.

Makayla knows the routine so well she’s usually ahead of the procedures, such as pulling up her hair so her ears can be checked. Last week was a rough one, but she powered through as if getting poked and taking infusions were normal.

“She’s been to more doctors appointments in four years than I have in 34,” Matt Willett said. “I can’t even count how many doctors visits she’s been to.

“A lot of it is if mom and dad freak out about it, she freaks out about it. Jenny and I have to maintain as much calm as possible. As much as we want to cry, throw things and get mad, you have to maintain a level head.”

But that must be impossible. How do you try to protect a 4-year-old with the usual incredible energy and invulnerable attitude? There’s no cocoon to place her in, no way to avoid everything that can happen.

So the Willetts have chosen to let Makayla experience life as normally as possible, trusting in their faith that God will protect her and guide them. As they see it, it’s really their only option.

“We’re beyond questioning, `God, why are you doing this to us?’ “ Matt Willett said. “We’re at the point now that it has brought us closer in our faith and in our family, and now it’s about how can our faith help us in the healing process as well? You trust that God is going to get you through these challenges. That’s what we’re trying to teach her.”

And they rely on friends to give them a boost, such as the Komets who have been very supportive. The players all know the situation and continually ask Willett for updates. Her favorite player is, of course, Cody Sol who always responds to her with a high five. When she was told the guys would be at the hospital for the Christmas visit at the same time, her eyes just lit up.

“The guys are absolutely amazing,” Jenny Willett said.

“She just eats it up,” Matt Willett said. “She’s got them all wrapped around her little finger. To have the support and the understanding from your employer or who you work with the most helps tremendously. For being how much I’m not home, they understand that the time we do get with our families is precious.”

Both the Willetts grew up in Huntington, and the proximity to both their families was a big reason why Matt took the Komets job last summer through Optimum Sports Performance. He previously worked at St. Joe College in Rensselaer before it closed following last school year.

They’ve needed every ounce of that support and know they will likely need more.

“We don’t want her to feel like she’s different than anybody,”Matt Willett said. “We want her to have as normal enough childhood that she can despite this.”

And those smiles and the giggles make everything worth it.

Professional Sports

Tennessee Athletic Trainer of the Year Keeps Predators Flying High


Article reposted from
Author: Brooks Bratten

When Ryan Johansen took a high hit and needed attention during a game last week at Bridgestone Arena, Andy Hosler was first over the boards.

That’s the way it’s been for the past five seasons – if a member of the Predators suffers an injury, Hosler is the first one on the scene.

His role as head athletic trainer for the Preds certainly carries a high amount of importance and responsibility, and thanks to his tireless work tending to the medical needs of Nashville’s top hockey players, Hosler was recognized by his peers of the Tennessee Athletic Trainers’ Association with the honor of 2018 Clinical/Professional Athletic Trainer of the Year.

It was a humbling accolade for the Monroe, Michigan, native, not bad for someone who didn’t have much of an idea as to what he wanted to do for a living until his sophomore year in college.

“I had a thought of going into the medical field, and at the time, I was obsessed with hockey and athletics,” Hosler said. “I was a sophomore going into my second semester, and I was watching a hockey game. The Detroit Red Wings were playing, there was an injury and I saw the trainer run out onto the ice.”

The rest is history.

Studying at Western Michigan, Hosler began to pursue his newfound career aspirations, finishing his undergraduate degree before receiving his masters in kinesiology from Michigan State. Once he became immersed in the athletic training atmosphere, he set head athletic trainer for a college hockey program as his end goal.

But, as Hosler explained, college programs won’t consider those who are lacking experience in hockey. So off to the minor leagues he went, landing a position with the ECHL’s Utah Grizzlies – and the more time he spent in the pro ranks, the more he began to dream of the bright lights of the NHL.

Predators Head Athletic Trainer Andy Hosler tends to center Ryan Johansen during Nashville's game against the Vegas Golden Knights on Jan. 16 at Bridgestone Arena. Predators Head Athletic Trainer Andy Hosler tends to center Ryan Johansen during Nashville’s game against the Vegas Golden Knights on Jan. 16 at Bridgestone Arena. John Russell

“When the job opened in Nashville for the assistant position, I thought it was a no brainer to go after it,” Hosler said. “This has been a great spot for me. I’ve enjoyed it and it’s definitely a dream, maybe that I didn’t know I had at the time until I was striving for it and trying to get there.”

Hosler was promoted to the position of head athletic trainer prior to the start of the 2013-14 season, overseeing the health and rehab of all players throughout the Preds organization. A job with long hours and plenty of issues to deal with, it also has its perks – like having the best seat in the house to watch the best hockey players in the world night after night.

“The thought of being able to watch hockey for a living was what got me into athletic training,” Hosler said. “The hours are tough at times, but I always say I live a pretty privileged life. I have a lot of good things in my life and a lot of it has come because of where I am and how I’ve gotten here.”

Everyone watches the game a bit differently, and a spectator in the stands isn’t necessarily looking for what those behind the bench might have their attention on. Just as Predators Head Equipment Manager Pete Rogers has a keen eye for when a player’s stick might break, Hosler is looking for any ailment, no matter how minor, that might need tending to.

“A lot of times, the play is down at one end and I have to keep an eye on a scrum or a late hit that’s going to occur at a different side,” Hosler said. “I have to keep an eye on them even though the play may be moving in a different direction. Usually as soon as I see a potential injury, my first reaction is how am I going to get out on the ice and if I really need to.”

In a contact sport like hockey, those instances occur from time to time, and those who rely on Hosler and his staff for assistance are glad it’s him who will be first on the scene.

“The trainers and the equipment guys, the never get enough credit,” Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne said. “Those guys put in the most hours and they’re always there for us. We’re lucky to have Andy and he means a lot to this team.”

“Andy is unbelievable,” Nashville Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “He’s got a disposition that allows him to handle everybody’s woes every day, from the staff, the coaches, the players; he’s calm, he’s cool, he’s collected, he’s smart and he’s a great person. He’s great at what he does and we’re lucky to have him here.”

Predators Head Athletic Trainer Andy Hosler tends to defenseman Mattias Ekholm on the bench during Nashville's game against the Arizona Coyotes on Jan. 19 at Bridgestone Arena. Predators Head Athletic Trainer Andy Hosler tends to defenseman Mattias Ekholm on the bench during Nashville’s game against the Arizona Coyotes on Jan. 19 at Bridgestone Arena. John Russell

Just as those who rely on him sing his praises, Hosler credits his family’s support from home as a must-have during the long days and travel, adding that the rest of the training staff, particularly Assistant Athletic Trainers D.J. Amadio and Jeff Biddle, as well as Strength and Conditioning Coach David Good, are pillars of his success.

“I always say you’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with,” Hosler said. “If you have people that are doing their job and they’re able to be relied upon, then it makes everyone’s life a lot easier.”

It’s that family atmosphere between players, coaches, trainers, equipment managers and the rest of the hockey operations staff, Hosler says, is the best part of his job. And that trust that’s been built with one another over the years undoubtedly contributes to the on-ice success of the club.

After all, everyone is striving for the same thing – but when something goes awry, it’s Hosler who will be ready to make it right again.

“A long time ago, someone told me hockey is a hidden gem in athletic training,” Hosler said. “It’s the great people I’ve met throughout the years that I would consider my favorite part of the job and will always take with me. Going to the Stanley Cup Final was pretty awesome, too.”

Professional Sports

Huffman named Blue Jays head athletic trainer


Article reposted from The News Herald

East Burke High 2005 graduate and Connelly Springs native Nikki Huffman was promoted from head physical therapist to head athletic trainer with the Toronto Blue Jays, the major-league club announced just before Christmas.

Blue Jays Huffman

Huffman joined Toronto’s MLB franchise in 2016 as a physical therapist and rehab coordinator when the Blue Jays advanced to the American League Championship Series, falling to the Cleveland Indians in five games.

Huffman has worked with the Blue Jays and also treated athletes at the club’s minor-league complex in Dunedin, Fla.

“(I am) humbled, honored, truly thankful to serve in this new role for our incredible athletes and organization,” said Huffman.

The position became available when the Blue Jays’ head trainer for the last 15 years, George Poulis, accepted the same role with the Braves to join the organization’s former general manager, Alex Anthopoulos, who’s now in Atlanta.

“(Poulis) left a legacy here, and as a staff we want to express how thankful we are for that and how happy we are for him going forward that he has made the best move for him and his family,” Huffman said.

“It’s extremely important to acknowledge the amount of experience and history our former staff built here, and we are truly thankful for that.”

Before making the move to Toronto, Huffman previously assisted on the athletic training staffs at Duke University and with the Atlanta Falcons.

Current Blue Jays right-handed pitcher Marcus Stroman worked alongside Huffman in 2015 when he was recovering from a torn ACL at Duke. reports that Stroman was expected to miss the entire season, but was available sooner than expected after his rehab with Huffman led to a September return and a playoff appearance.

“Head athletic trainer of THE Toronto Blue Jays,” Stroman wrote on Twitter. “More than deserving. She’s the best, no argument. ACL recovery in five months. Glad I brought you with me from Duke University! Keep climbing LIFER!”

Blue Jays pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 14, position players arrive Feb. 19 and the team’s spring training opener is Feb. 23 versus Philadelphia.

Jason Baker can be reached at

Professional Sports

Colorado Native hits home run as Detroit Tigers athletic trainer


Article reposted from Post Independent
Author: Savannah Kelley

The new year brings a major change for a Glenwood Springs native. In January, Cody Derby, a 2012 Glenwood Springs High School graduate, begins working for the Detroit Tigers as the baseball franchise’s minor league assistant athletic trainer.

Derby’s pursuit of athletic training began in high school, when he was advised to end his football career during his sophomore year after a string of concussions. At the time, Derby was a three-sport athlete, playing basketball, baseball and football. When he couldn’t play football anymore, he stayed involved in the football program by accepting an offer from the GSHS Head Certified Athletic Trainer Marni Barton.

“I offered some student training to him and he immediately said, ‘Absolutely,’ ” Barton said. “That’s where I think it all really began.”

Although Derby already had some interest in an athletic training career, his experiences during his junior and senior years drove home his decision to pursue his passion in helping athletes.

“The concussions were really an eye opener, ” Derby said. “I didn’t know what to do. Thank God I had Marni here, she did so much for me. I think that having Marni here during that really drove what I wanted to do.”

After graduating from high school, Derby continued his education in Kansas at Ottawa University, where he played baseball.

After his first season on the team, Derby decided to change his target.

“I had to decide if I really wanted to focus on athletic training,” Derby said. “Doing them both at the same time was pretty difficult, so I chose to go with my profession.”

Derby transferred to Kansas State University his sophomore year to continue his major in athletic training and minor in kinesiology. At the university, Derby had opportunities to work with players from football, baseball, cheer and women’s rowing, but he continued to find his passion on a baseball diamond.

“Going into my senior year, the athletic training program director had some connections in baseball,” Derby said. “He reached out to some preceptors [teachers] and asked who was interested in baseball and I hit the gun. I said that’s absolutely me.”

Soon after, Derby landed an internship working with the Atlanta Braves.

“At that time I had no idea what to expect,” Derby said. “I had no idea who to talk to or how to go about it, but I said that I definitely wanted to pursue that.”

After interning during spring training and the summer of his senior year, Derby graduated in 2016 and decided on graduate school. He attended Missouri Western, working with the volleyball and baseball teams while getting his master’s degree.

The Braves referred Derby to the Detroit Tigers shortly after his internship. He interviewed with the Tigers, as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks.

“I wasn’t really seeking a job at the time,” Derby said. “But the connection was really between the Braves and the Tigers. Having both those teams reach out to me was pretty cool and I decided that if I’m going to take it, I needed to take it now.”

Derby’s passion for his profession continues to grow.

“Every single day is a new day, and you never know what you’re going to get,” Derby said. “Seeing your athletes on a daily basis and developing those relationships is very unique. You see the athletes at their worst and you see them at their best, as well. During both of those times, you’re able to help them through illness, injury or whatever it is.”

GSHS varsity basketball Head Coach Cory Hitchcock coached Derby during his junior and senior years of high school. He says that athletic training serves as an important part of high school, college and professional sports teams.

“Athletic trainers are important because they take care of the overall athlete’s well-being,” Hitchcock said. “They provide the athlete an opportunity to perform even when they may be injured, sore or hurt. They’re also a key factor in rehabilitating the athletes.”

From his first years in athletic training, Derby showed promise in the profession.

“To be an athletic trainer, you have to be able to put up with a lot,” Barton said. “He’s very tolerant of things, but he’s also very intelligent. He’s not just book smart. He has great intuition, so he’s able to really think outside the box.”

Derby hopes to continue his experience in the athletic training field and work his way up to the major leagues.

Professional Sports

Twins hire Japanese athletic trainer Masa Abe


Article reposted from SB Nation Twinkie Town
Author: myjah

The Twins recently made a slew of minor league coaching changes, but one new hire in particular piqued my interest: Masa Abe.

Abe, 39, was hired as the organization’s new assistant MLB trainer. If you couldn’t tell from the name, yes, he’s Japanese. He was born in Aiehi, Japan, and attended high school there before coming to the US to attend University of Northern Colorado. After graduating with an undergraduate degree in Athletic Training in 2007, Abe went on to earn a master’s degree in biomechanics from Louisiana State University.

As far as his professional career goes, Abe’s always worked in baseball. He joined the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2011 and has been moving up the minor league system as an athletic trainer. Last season he served as the Athletic Trainer for the Triple-A Reno Aces, where he was responsible for the care of over 60 different players, including four big leaguers on rehab assignment. His efforts apparently did not go unnoticed, as he was named the Pacific Coast League Trainer of the Year! Apparently, the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS) gives an award to the top trainer in each of the 16 minor leagues baseball leagues every year, which is something I’ve never heard of before being a Minnesota Twins fan. As the winner of the award in the PCL, Abe is now in the running for the 2017 Minor League Athletic Trainer of the Year award, which will be announced during baseball’s upcoming Winter Meetings.

It’s probably obvious why this new hire caught my eye: he’s Japanese, and the Twins have been rumored to be pursuing Japanese stars Yu Darvish and Shohei Ohtani. Obviously there is no way of telling whether this is at all related to those pursuits, but having a athletic trainer who speaks Japanese doesn’t seem like it would hurt — particularly in Ohtani’s case, since teams have to actively convince him that their organization is a good fit. In fact, former Mariners front office executive Tony Blengino was recently on Fangraphs’ Effectively Wild podcast to talk about the memo Ohtani asked each team to write about themselves, and he believes several of the questions Ohtani asked were specifically aimed at finding out how teams treated rehab and injuries.

Professional Sports

Part-time Pro: Michigan High School Athletic Trainer works occasionally with Bengals


Article reposted from The Daily News


Jon Jungwirth, right, watches a replay alongside Cincinnati Bengals Ryan Hewitt during a game against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in Green Bay, Wis. Jungwirth, an athletic trainer from Iron Mountain, Mich., worked as an athletic trainer on the BengalsÕ sideline. (Adam Niemi/Iron Mountain Daily News)

Jon Jungwirth, right, watches a replay alongside Cincinnati Bengals Ryan Hewitt during a game against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in Green Bay, Wis. Jungwirth, an athletic trainer from Iron Mountain, Mich., worked as an athletic trainer on the BengalsÕ sideline. (Adam Niemi/Iron Mountain Daily News)

A large, lumbering refueling cargo plane roars south to north from one end of the football field and beyond the other end during the final notes of the National Anthem.

As the plane flies away, the deafening sound of its engines fades and gives way to the cheering of 80,000 people at Lambeau Field.

It’s hot. It’s loud. It’s gameday.

Somewhere on the Cincinnati Bengals sideline across from the Green Bay Packers is an Iron Mountain resident who, save for a chance encounter at a national convention years ago, wouldn’t otherwise be there.

Jon Jungwirth, a certified athletic trainer at Bellin Health, stands among Bengals’ players, coaches and staff with a pack clipped around his waist and a water bottle in his hand. The water isn’t for him on the 97-degree sunny afternoon at Lambeau, the hottest-ever game at the hallowed stadium. The water is for the players around him.

Jon Jungwirth, left, looks on as Cincinnati BengalsÕ Dre Kirkpatrick, center, drinks water against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in Green Bay, Wis. Jungwirth, a Bellin Health athletic trainer from Iron Mountain, Mich., worked as an athletic trainer on the BengalsÕ sideline. (Adam Niemi/Iron Mountain Daily News)

Jon Jungwirth, left, looks on as Cincinnati BengalsÕ Dre Kirkpatrick, center, drinks water against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in Green Bay, Wis. Jungwirth, a Bellin Health athletic trainer from Iron Mountain, Mich., worked as an athletic trainer on the BengalsÕ sideline. (Adam Niemi/Iron Mountain Daily News)

On this sweaty Sept. 24 afternoon, Jungwirth was a trainer for the Bengals, sporting all-black attire, including shoes, pants and a polo.

“I’ve known the head athletic trainer (Paul Sparling) for the Bengals for years,” Jungwirth said, explaining how he came to find himself on the Bengals sideline, adding that over the years he has gotten to work for a day as a team trainer “when the Bengals come to the NFC North opponents.”

Jungwirth met Sparling at the National Athletic Trainers Association Convention at St. Louis in 2008. The two struck a friendship that has spurred offers for Jungwirth to join the sidelines when the Bengals visit Midwest NFL cities.

The National Football League rotates its schedule every four years, which has allowed Jungwirth to visit every NFC North stadium since he’s helped the team, except for the Minnesota Vikings’ new grounds, US Bank Stadium, which Jungwirth plans to see when the Bengals play there Week 15, on Dec. 17.

Jungwirth, 42, holds a master’s degree in athletic training from Illinois State University and is a certified National Academy of Sports Medicine-Performance Enhancement Specialist. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

Jon Jungwirth walks off the field during a game between the Green Bay Packers and Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in Green Bay, Wis. Jungwirth said he is a lifelong Packers fan. (Adam Niemi/Iron Mountain Daily News)

Jon Jungwirth walks off the field during a game between the Green Bay Packers and Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in Green Bay, Wis. Jungwirth said he is a lifelong Packers fan. (Adam Niemi/Iron Mountain Daily News)

Jungwirth’s presence on the Bengals’ sideline alleviates the hectic travel schedule of an NFL team. It simply saves the Bengals from including one more person in its travel itinerary, especially when some stuff are unable to attend a particular away game. About 140 people including players, coaching and support staff from NFL teams travel to away games.

“It’s just another set of hands in the locker room, in the training room and on the field,” Jungwirth said.

Ideas to take home

The hot day in Green Bay against the Packers necessitated trainers like Sparling and Jungwirth to work at the top of their own respective game. They had to stay ready to deal with injuries, but mostly keeping players hydrated and cool. Jungwirth said the opportunity to join the sidelines affords him an experience that directly impacts how he treats student-athletes at local schools. Through Bellin Health, Jungwirth works as a trainer at North Dickinson County School and Niagara High School in sports ranging from basketball and volleyball to football and track and field.

“Obviously it’s an extremely high-level athlete. It’s the big show. Some of these game days in the NFL is what America’s watching. You just kind of take away and watch how they treat different injuries,” Jungwirth said of the gameday NFL experience. “The interesting thing is injuries are the same thing whether it’s a professional athlete or high school athlete. I just try to apply some of the techniques. They have some exposure to newer gadgets and some of that stuff. But injuries are the same for high school athletes and professional athletes.”

Jungwirth said things like choices of tape and where to apply different kinds of tape on athletes are among some of the treatment examples he’s learned while working with the Bengals, and has used at local sporting events.

Jon Jungwirth, kneeling, ties Darqueze DennardÕs shoe during a game against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in Green Bay, Wis. (Adam Niemi/Iron Mountain Daily News)

Jon Jungwirth, kneeling, ties Darqueze DennardÕs shoe during a game against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in Green Bay, Wis. (Adam Niemi/Iron Mountain Daily News)

“There’s different taping techniques, different types of tape for different applications or locations on the body,” he said. “You want to have some strength with this tape, but you don’t want to cut off circulation. There’s different kinds of tape from watching their head athletic trainer taping different joints with different kinds of tape. I never thought of taping a joint that way with that kind of tape.”

Close to stars

The closer you get to the field, the less a barrier exists between you and the players. TV presents players as abstract — viewers only know how a player looks, and there is zero interaction. Most fans at a stadium see more or less a figure with namse and numbers on their jerseys, but they’re there in person, yet still no interaction. Jungwirth runs onto the field during timeouts and stands shoulder to shoulder in the presence of the NFL’s most popular players, asking if they need water, or in other cases, tying their shoes. While he was at first star-struck by seeing some of these popular players, the face-to-face interactions he’s had working with players has more or less made him comfortable with being around the star players.

“They’re people. I think the biggest thing that we see is how these people are high-profile and they’re looked up upon and made big stories of. But what it all boils down to is, they’re people,” Jungwirth said. “You can relate to them. They’re people, they’re just extremely talented at throwing the football or they’re big and strong — blocking and catching a pass. They’re blessed with certain abilities and talents that we don’t have. They’re people too.

“Coming out of that tunnel, just as a person helping that team, is an adrenaline rush,” Jungwirth added. “It’s a thing you’re blessed to have an opportunity to have done that. I’ve done that.”

When he jogs onto the field during a timeout, Jungwirth said he is only thinking of his work. But there are times he said when he takes in the moment — being on the plush turf of Lambeau Field.

“Don’t trip,”?Jungwirth said with a laugh about what he’s thinking in moments like that. “The roar of the crowd. Granted you’re on the losing end of it, but it’s awe-inspiring, motivating, all the emotions you would ever think about.”

Love for the Packers

Being a lifelong Packer fan as an Oshkosh, Wis. native, Jungwirth said being at that Sept. 24 game, the hottest game in Lambeau Field history (89-degree game-time temperature), added to his family’s Packers fandom. His father and grandfather attended the coldest game in Lambeau Field history — the Ice Bowl — the 1967 NFL Championship between the Packers and the Dallas Cowboys. The game-time temperature was minus-15 degrees.

“My grandfather has had season tickets since Lambeau was built,”Jungwirth said of the family’s Section 102, Row 8 seats. “He had season tickets at the old City Stadium. That’s how my dad and grandfather got to go to the game.”

Despite all the access he’s had working NFL games, Jungwirth said he doesn’t see himself changing his career path towards becoming an athletic trainer in the NFL. It would mean moving his wife, Angie, and their children Brady, 9, Lauren, 7, and Carli, 5.

“That’s kind of in a different phase of my life, maybe if I were younger, yes. The people in this area and this community are who I want to be taking care of,” Jungwirth said. “If I can do a few games here and a few games there, that’s great. This is home and these are the people who I like to take care of. It’s a wonderful opportunity, but it’s a lifestyle change. I’ve got family and friends. If you look at an NFL schedule, game day on Sunday, travel on Saturday. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday they’re practicing. It’s a lifestyle change.

“Awesome as it is,” Jungwirth added, “we get to take care of our Iron Mountain-Kingsford area community people and do what we do for them. No place I’d rather be, than here. Not even Lambeau.”

Professional Sports

Rays promote Joe Benge to head athletic trainer


Article reposted from Tampa Bay Times
Author: Marc Topkin

The Rays promoted Joe Benge to head athletic trainer as part of a staff shuffle following the departure of Ron Porterfield to the Dodgers.

Mark Vinson was promoted to top assistant and former top assistant Paul Harker shifted to a new medical coordinator post.

Benge (pronounced BENJ), 40, has been in the Rays organization for seven years, the last six as  minor league medical training coordinator, and also assisting the major-league staff. He was named the 2015 minor-league athletic trainer of the year by the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society.

Vinson, 40, has been with the Rays for 12 seasons, the last seven as an assistant on the big-league staff.

Harker, 49, has been with the Rays for 21 years, working the last 12 as the top assistant to Porterfield. In his new role, the Rays say he “will assist the athletic training staff in a variety of ways, with a focus on logistical support and organizational coordination. He will also be heavily involved with directing care for major league players on the disabled list as well as medical evaluation.”

Rays GM Erik Neander said in a statement: “It’s always tough to lose someone as talented and dedicated as Ron Porterfield, but we wish him nothing but the best. We are excited to see Joe, Vinny and Hark in their new roles, building upon current practices and ensuring that the ATC staff continues to provide first-class care to our players.”

Porterfield had been the Rays head athletic trainer for 12 years and with the team for 21 before leaving for the Dodgers, where he will serve as medical director.

Professional Sports

Longtime Mariners athletic trainer Rick Griffin to take emeritus role


Article reposted from The Seattle Times
While players, coaches, managers and executives have come and gone over the years and seasons — winning and mostly losing — Rick Griffin remained a constant in the Mariners organization as the team’s head athletic trainer.

But after 35 seasons in that role, the longtime fixture will take step back in his duties. On Friday, the organization announced that Griffin will transition to the role of athletic trainer emeritus for the 2018 season. In this dialed-back position, Griffin will remain a a part of the Mariners’ medical team, but will no longer work in the training room on an every day basis.

“I have spent the past 35 seasons as the head athletic trainer with the Mariners, a tremendous experience that has allowed me to create amazing relationships with players and staff members from Jim Beattie, Mark Langston and Alvin Davis to Jay Buhner and Ken Griffey Jr. to Robinson Canó, Felix Hernández and Kyle Seager,” he said in a statement. “I value those friendships more than I can say. Moving to this new role will allow me to continue to be involved with the Mariners organization, its players, staff and fans, but will not require the year around, 24-7 demands of the past three-and-a-half decades.”

The plan for this transition started near the end of the 2017 season and was not a direct result of the recent hiring of Dr. Lorena Martin, who will serve as the organization’s “director of high performance” — a job created to coordinate all aspects of the Mariners’ physical and mental training approach of players and staff.

Griffin was the team’s second-ever head athletic trainer, starting his tenure on Feb. 3, 1983. He worked 5,543 regular season games for the Mariners and 34 postseason games.

“On behalf of the Mariners franchise, I want to thank Rick for everything he has done for the Seattle Mariners,” general manager Jerry Dipoto said. “He has truly touched every team and every player of the past 35 seasons, and his impact will continue to be felt for years to come. We’re thankful that he has agreed to continue as athletic trainer emeritus, giving all of us the benefit of his expertise even as he takes a step back from the day-to-day grind of the baseball season.”

Griffin picked up several awards during his tenure. In 1999, he and this staff were named the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society’s “Major League Baseball Athletic Training Staff of the Year.” In 2013, Griffin and his staff were presented with the Martin-Monahan Award as the best medical staff in MLB. Griffin was inducted into the Washington State Athletic Trainers Association (WSATA) Hall of Fame in 2016. Griffin was also a part of four American League All-Star teams (1987, 1995, 2001 and 2010)  and also worked as an athletic trainer for a MLB All-Star team that toured Japan in 1996.

Prior to joining the Mariners, Griffin served as an athletic trainer at the Sports Medicine Clinic in Seattle. He spent four years (1977-81) as an athletic trainer with the Eugene Emeralds in the Northwest League.

Besides his work in baseball, he’s worked in the offseason at professional rodeos in Montana.

A native of Brigham City, Utah, Griffin earned his Bachelor of Science from Utah State University in Health Education, and followed with an M.S. in Sports Medicine from the University of Oregon. Rick has three adult daughters, Ashley, Nicole and Lauren. He and his wife, Rachel, reside in Bothell, and have three children: Gabrielle, Nainoa and Keanu.

Professional Sports

An Ode to Mets Athletic Trainer Ray Ramirez: The Snakebitten Trainer for a Snakebitten Team


Article reposted from Sports Illustrated
Author:  Jack Dickey

Let me stipulate that some jobs are truly and unavoidably thankless. They are suicide missions. They are jobs where you will be noticed if and only if your employer falls short of its objective as it seems to concern you—even if you personally are blameless. Armored car driver, White House ethics lawyer, that kind of thing. I cop to precisely zero knowledge about whether head athletic trainer for a famously snakebitten baseball club is or isn’t such an appointment.

One man who might have an opinion, Ray Ramirez, was officially separated today from his longtime gig as the New York Mets’ head trainer. He’d been a survivor, all things considered. He’d held the job since fall 2004 and served under three managers and two general managers amidst ceaseless griping about the team’s perpetual injury problem. Until recently, speculation had been that Ramirez would retain his job despite an organizational purge that claimed manager Terry Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen.

Athletes get hurt; that comes with the territory. But it sure seemed like the Mets got hurt more, and more cruelly, than most. Each member of the team’s vaunted young rotation has suffered at least one season-ending injury in the last two seasons. The exception is Noah Syndergaard, who earlier this year refused an MRI, pitched through pain, tore a muscle, and wound up missing five months. Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey, and Steven Matz all enter the offseason with their big-league futures in serious doubt. Yoenis Cespedes, the team’s best hitter, missed half of the 2017 season with presumably manageable leg injuries, and David Wright missed the entire season after injury setbacks in spring training.

And as with the Syndergaard affair, the team’s initial diagnoses and treatment approaches tended to misfire. In 2015, what turned out to be Wright’s degenerative spinal condition was first identified as a mere hamstring strain. In 2009, with bone chips in his elbow, reliever J.J. Putz received a cortisone shot instead of surgery. He tore his UCL. In 2008, outfielder Ryan Church was held off the disabled list—and flown on a road trip to high-altitude Colorado—after sustaining his second concussion of the season.

During the Ramirez era, Johan Santana turned from an innings-eater to cautionary tale, and Moises Alou, always injury-prone, managed the astounding feat of playing in just 102 games between 2007 and 2008. Every big-ticket acquisition other than Curtis Granderson wound up missing extended time at one point or another. (To be sure, this group consists primarily of older players, and as such may very well be more prone to injury than the entire population of baseball players.) Overall, in 2017, the payroll-challenged Mets ranked second in baseball in total salary lost to the disabled list, according to Spotrac. And from the start of the 2010 season through mid-2017, according to FiveThirtyEight, the team ranked eighth overall in potential player contributions lost to the disabled list.

All the while, Ramirez made a terrific scapegoat. So much was going wrong with the Mets. But there was no direct and effective way to bemoan the post-Bernie Madoff parsimony of the team’s owners or the Sandy Alderson regime’s struggles in the draft. The M.D.’s from the Hospital for Special Surgery don’t sit in the dugout. And even in New York only a certain subset of fans is willing to boo the home team. Ramirez, though, was present, every third night jogging onto the field to wrestle with some fresh hell, something that could happen seemingly only to the Mets.

How culpable, personally, was he? (Who knew? Who cared?) For better or worse, the question now becomes his successor’s to answer. As for Ramirez? As Mets injury nomenclature would have it: His tenure with the team is day-to-day with a calf strain.

Professional Sports

Life of an NFL athletic trainer


Article reposted from VailDaily
Author: Richard Williams

Richard Williams is an athletic trainer who recently joined the team at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics. He works both in the office and in surgery. It’s pretty cool that he has a Super Bowl ring from 2015. In this article, I asked Williams to describe life as an athletic trainer in the NFL.

Dr. Rick Cunningham
Vail-Summit Orthopaedics

Football is back and for many people, it is an entertainment business that allows us to cheer on our favorite team each week. I had the privilege to work in the NFL as an athletic training student for two years and as a certified athletic trainer for a year.

“I hope that one day people will stop looking at athletic trainers as “water boys” and learn how much time and effort we put into the care of these athletes on a daily basis.”

This time of year reminds me of the hard work, dedication and time spent with those teams during training camp and moving forward into the season. I was lucky enough to work for two different NFL organizations, including the Cincinnati Bengals and the Denver Broncos.

The athletic training staff is only one component to the success of an NFL team, but it is a major part of helping athletes achieve maximum production from their bodies and ultimately keeping them on the field. The daily duties for an athletic trainer, as well as the hours they work, make the job difficult mentally and physically.


Most people do not know what an athletic trainer’s job entails. Some people may see athletic trainers as “water boys” with the easiest job in the world, but in reality, athletic trainers do much more than make sure the athletes are well hydrated. Athletic trainers are responsible for treatment throughout the entire injury process for a player, from the time of injury to the athlete returning to play.

During my time in the NFL, I would typically get up at 4 o’clock in the morning and arrive at work around 4:45 a.m. to start treatments by 5:30 a.m. Treatments would consist of therapeutic modalities (i.e. ultrasound), joint mobilization techniques, soft tissue massage, stretching, aqua therapy, physical exercises and core strengthening.

Treatments would continue until the players would go to individual and team meetings. NFL players cannot perform at their highest level if they do not continue to take care of the bodies. After player meetings, there would be more treatment sessions before practice.

While players were attending meetings, myself and another athletic trainer would set up the field for practice. Before practice, athletic trainers would each lead 10-15 athletes through a thorough stretching program. During practice, athletic trainer duties included surveying the field for possible areas where the players were at higher risk of injury, hydration, immediate evaluation and treatment of player’s injuries, and helping the players or coaches whenever needed.

After practice, we would take medical equipment inside and begin further treatment sessions until the players went to additional meetings in the afternoon. After the players finished meetings, we would finish final treatments for the day. Training camp was always the most intense work schedule as we would have a walk-through practice and a full practice the same day. Our daily hours would be from 5:30 a.m. until 11:00 p.m.


I believe that the head athletic trainer of the Houston Texans, Geoff Kaplan, said it best when he was interviewed about being an athletic trainer in the NFL.

He said, “It’s a very attractive job because all people see is Sunday, from noon to 3. What people don’t see is my cell phone is on and I am on call, 24 hours a day, seven days a week during football season. We’re on call just like a doctor is on call. During the season, you work six months straight without a day off. Depending on if we’re traveling or not, we’re working between 80 and 90 hours a week. During training camp, we’re working 110 to 120 hours a week. The Sunday part is very attractive but you have to have a very understanding family to do the Monday through Saturday part.”

I am thankful for the opportunity I had to work in the NFL and although I made great friendships and relationships with amazing athletes, I am more thankful for the education I was able to obtain and the skills and techniques that I will use for the rest of my career.

I was lucky enough to be a part of the 2015 Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos organization that made the long days and grueling season all worth it.

I hope that one day people will stop looking at athletic trainers as “water boys” and learn how much time and effort we put into the care of these athletes on a daily basis.

Richard Williams is an ATC and OTC to Dr. Richard Cunningham, M.D. Vail-Summit Orthopaedics. Williams received his undergraduate degree in athletic training from the University of Cincinnati. As an undergrad, he completed two seasonal internships with the Cincinnati Bengals. Upon graduation from the University of Cincinnati, Williams worked as a certified athletic trainer fellow for the Denver Broncos and went on to be a part of the Super Bowl 50 championship team. Williams is a board-certified orthopedic technologist and licensed surgical assistant. For more information, visit