As hosts of the NCAA® Men’s College World Series®, Creighton University does its best to ensure teams, fans and officials play and enjoy the old ballgame in a friendly and exciting atmosphere.
Some Creighton faculty and staff volunteers go so far to see that in all the fun, nobody goes home hurt. While each team travels with its own athletic training and medical staff, Creighton practitioners are helping provide a full-throated — if often behind-the-scenes — response to various needs.
For the past 10 years, Curtis Self, MA, ATC, the athletic trainer for Creighton’s baseball team, has served as the medical coordinator at the CWS, organizing the sports medicine volunteers who flock each year to the event. Athletic trainers, orthopedic surgeons, internal medicine physicians, chiropractors and rehabilitation experts from across the country converge on Omaha to contribute to an effort that Self says leaves the players, coaches and team medical staffs with only one concern: winning ballgames.
“We take care of any needs that might have and we’ve seen the full gamut over the years,” Self said. “It’s a whirlwind to get here and play in a national championship, so we see our job as doing whatever we can to make sure everything is taken care of, across the spectrum. We’re here to help players, coaches, the team medical staff, NCAA officials, umpires, CWS Inc. officials, you name it. Anything we can do to make sure they are taken care of and can concentrate on the games, we’ll do it.”
Self said the CWS effectively turns TD Ameritrade Park Omaha and the team hotels into medical triage stations, making sure that all but the most major issues can be tended to without traveling far. The stadium has on-site X-ray and other diagnostic capabilities, as well as intravenous equipment. Therapists and chiropractors make housecalls at the hotels for players who might need pre- or postgame attention.
In addition to player injuries and illnesses, Self said over the years, the medical personnel he oversees has treated a coach’s child with an ear infection and diagnosed a broadcaster with a ruptured Achilles tendon, working to coordinate surgery with a hospital near his home.
“Creighton is the host institution and we take pride in being the best hosts we can be,” Self said. “The people who come to help us are the best in their fields with a phenomenal willingness to help out and make the College World Series® the showcase event that it is.”
Terry Grindstaff, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Physical Therapy in the School of Pharmacy and Health Professions, is one such volunteer, working with the eight teams who descended on Omaha this week to ensure the health needs of players and other on-field personnel are being met.
“We try to fill in as much as we can to make sure the individual student-athletes and teams are taken care of,” said Grindstaff, who has volunteered at the College World Series since 2011. As an example, we may be asked if we can make a quick run to the pharmacy. Another role that sounds small, but is greatly appreciated, is at the bottom of every even inning, we make sure the umpires have enough water so they do not become dehydrated. These little things can make a big difference.”
For Grindstaff, up until recently, most of the help has been minor. But in the opening days of this year’s CWS, Grindstaff helped a player who needed dry-needling for an arm injury. It’s not a procedure an athletic trainer can perform, but a physical therapist like Grindstaff is well qualified to do so.
“The player had an arm injury and dry needling was performed by a physical therapist at home before he came to Omaha, so this was just a continuation of his care,” Grindstaff said. “It is a team effort and we help out whenever and wherever we can.”
Volunteers work in shifts during games and practices, but Self usually finds himself putting in full days at the ballpark. But, he said, it’s a dream job for a baseball fan.
“I love baseball, I love being around the game,” he said. “And these are the up-and-coming best baseball players in the country, playing at the highest level, so what more can you really ask for? It’s work, but it doesn’t feel like work. We’ve got a front-row seat to a premier sporting event and an opportunity to help both medically and to broadcast that Creighton name. We work hard, but we have a lot of fun doing it with great people.”