Professional Sports

Redskins break ground with female athletic trainer and lead doctor


Article reposted from The Washington Post
Author: Amie Just

As soon as the whistle blows, Abigail Solis, wearing black low-top Nikes, nondescript khaki shorts and a Redskins pullover, darts onto the field, toting an orange Gatorade carrier in her left hand and a medium-size Gatorade towel draped over her right shoulder.

At first glance, you might miss her. There are more than 100 men running around the field, some shouting, others laughing, and Solis is the only woman.

When Solis started her freshman year at George Mason University, she was under the impression that only men applied for the clinical internship she currently holds.

Not is she the only woman, she’s the Redskins have ever had, either full-time or as an intern.

“It’s very humbling to be the first female trainer,” Solis said. “I actually didn’t know that when I started.

Even the team was under that impression, as the players immediately noticed something was different.

“The first few days they definitely were like ‘oh, there’s a girl here,’ ” said Solis, who will be with the team all season as she rounds out her final semester before graduation and takes her board exam. “They’re all respectful and no one’s said anything disrespectful to me. It’s been great.”

Solis’s duties involve setting up practice, treatments for both pre- and post-practice, helping keep the players hydrated during practice, restock all of the athletic training equipment, such as tape and coolers.

Becoming part of the the Redskins and head trainer Larry Hess’s staff has been a natural fit for Solis, as she grew up playing sports and loved being a part of a team atmosphere.

As for choosing the Redskins, Solis said she wanted to experience a professional-level operation.

“I really appreciate how the professional athletes work to keep their bodies healthy,” Solis said. “Some other athletes, like high school athletes, don’t care as much. It’s their job. They understand that they need to keep their body in tune all the time.”

Historically, having female athletic trainers on NFL staffs were a rarity. The first full-time female athletic trainer, Ariko Iso, was hired by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2002. For many years, Iso was the only one. When Iso accepted the head athletic trainer position at Oregon State in 2011, the Steelers replaced her with another woman, Sonia Gysland. Gysland remained the only female athletic trainer on any NFL team’s roster for four years.

But just before the 2015 season, the landscape began to change.

San Francisco 49ers hired Laura Schnettgoecke as an assistant athletic trainer in May 2015. One month later, the San Diego Chargers hired Allison Miner, also as an assistant athletic trainer.

“It’s come a long way,” Solis said. “I’m happy to help pave the way for the women.”

Wednesday also featured another first for the Redskins in the area of women and sports medicine. The team announced the hiring of Dr. Robin West as director of sports medicine.

West currently serves as the lead team physician for the Nationals. She also serves as medical director of Inova Sports Medicine.

West is the first female lead chief physician in the NFL.

It remains to be seen how her addition will change the Redskins’ medical procedures. Generally, after receiving diagnosis from team doctors, Redskins players then opt to see specialists for their serious injuries.

“We are continually committed to providing our players with the best possible health care and it starts with finding the finest physicians available,” Redskins President Bruce Allen said while introducing West.  “Dr. West’s unique experience dealing with professional and amateur athletes makes her expertise extremely rare and we are glad to add her to our team.”

At the same press conference, West said, “I’m excited to be to joining the Redskins’ medical team and helping to provide the highest quality medical care, where we focus to improve performance, decrease injuries and provide immediate access to an elite group of medical specialists.”

Mike Jones contributed to this report.

Professional Sports

Thousands of NFL Players’ Medical Records Stolen From Skins Athletic Trainer


In late April, the NFL recently informed its players, a Skins athletic trainer’s car was broken into. The thief took a backpack, and inside that backpack was a cache of electronic and paper medical records for thousands of players, including NFL Combine attendees from the last 13 years. That would encompass the vast majority of NFL players, and for them, it’s a worrying breach of privacy; for the NFL, it’s potentially a costly violation of medical privacy laws.

Last month the league alerted the players’ union to the theft. Deadspin has obtained an email sent on May 27th by NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith to each team’s player representatives:


It has come to our attention that the backpack belonging to a Washington Redskins’ athletic trainer, was stolen from a car following a break-in. We have been advised that the backpack contained a password protected, but unencrypted, laptop that had copies of the medical exam results for NFL Combine attendees from 2004 until the present, as well as certain Redskins’ player records. We have also been advised that the backpack contained a zip drive and certain hard copy records of NFL Combine medical examinations as well as portions of current Redskins’ player medical records. It is our understanding that our Electronic Monitoring System prevented the downloading of any player medical records held by the team from the new EMR system.

The NFLPA has consulted with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regarding this matter. The NFLPA also continues to be briefed by the NFL on how they intend to deal with both the breach by a club employee, the violation of NFL and NFLPA rules regarding the storage of personal data, and what the NFL intends to do with respect to notifying those who may be affected. We will keep you apprised of what we hear from the team and League.

All inquiries regarding this matter should be directed to the NFL Management Council lawyers (212-450-2000) and/or the Washington Redskins (703-726-7000).

Thank you,


The circumstances of the car break-in are unclear, and the players whose medical records were stolen haven’t been informed whether the NFL believes the thief knew what was in the backpack or how to get around the password protection. (The hard copies of the records, obviously, have no protection.) In terms of the NFL’s legal liability—the breach appears to be the NFL’s legal responsibility rather than the Skins’, and we’re told the league is handling investigation of the incident—the final destination of the records doesn’t matter.

Though it was a Washington club employee whose copies were stolen, the records are those of attendees of the NFL Combine. It’s widely understood that the Combine, though operated by a private company, is a league event, involving prospective league employees, and the records are those of current and former players from among all the NFL’s teams. It is thus likely that it is the NFL’s responsibility to protect those records, and the NFL’s obligation to make sure that anyone who has access to them observes federally and locally required medical privacy standards.

Storing data on an unencrypted laptop appears to fail those standards. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has vigorously pursued violations under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) against companies with unencrypted computers, containing medical records, that were stolen from employees. Here are four such cases from recent years in which HHS reached settlement agreements, ranging from five to seven figures, in scenarios like this.

From one release:

“Covered entities and business associates must understand that mobile device security is their obligation,” said Susan McAndrew, OCR’s deputy director of health information privacy. “Our message to these organizations is simple: encryption is your best defense against these incidents.”

The NFL is unlikely to be a “covered entity,” so HIPAA would probably not apply directly to the league. Instead, any potential litigation would likely take place on the state level, where courts routinely cite HIPAA standards. There has long been a debate about the nature of professional athletes’ medical exams (sports leagues maintains they are “employment records”) but HHS has made clear that athletes’ medical records are as legally protected as anyone else’s.

If this comment is suggesting that the records of professional athletes should be deemed “employment records” even when created or maintained by health care providers and health plan, the Department disagrees. No class of individuals should be singled out for reduced privacy.

That the NFLPA is consulting with HHS is likely a sign that the union considers this a severe privacy violation not just of the league’s rules, but of the law.

The NFLPA declined comment for this story. The Skins did not respond to a request for comment. We were awaiting comment from the NFL at the time of publication and will update with their response.


Professional Sports

Julie Ramsey-Emrhein worked for the Washington Redskins


"I was treated with total respect," Ramsey-Emrhein told Freeman at the time. "They were totally professional. They knew that I was there to do a job."

The top tier of professional sports has long been a man’s enterprise, a bastion of the macho. Especially the king of the jungle, the National Football League.

But women have made inroads. Maybe not wearing pads and helmets, but to the corporate side and, ever so slowly, to the game crew. The NFL hired line judge Sarah Thomas this spring as its first full-time on-field female official. And the Arizona Cardinals brought Jen Welter aboard this preseason as the first female coach in league history.

One area of the game that crossed the gender line a little sooner was the training room. In 2002, the Pittsburgh Steelers hired Ariko Iso to become the first full-time female athletic trainer in the league. She worked for the team until 2011, when she took on the role of head football athletic trainer at Oregon State University. But a year earlier, a Cocalico graduate who happened to be a woman made headlines for her preseason role with the Washington Redskins.

Day 221 of the LNP Sports 365 project rewinds to the summer of 2001, when Julie Ramsey-Emrhein stepped in to assist the Washington staff during training camp at Dickinson College. She taped ankles. Assessed injuries. Worked with players on their rehab assignments.

“I think you have to get their respect,” Ramsey-Emrhein told the Intelligencer Journal’s Kevin Freeman on her assignment. “Otherwise, it won’t work.”

At the time, Ramsey-Emrhein had been a certified athletic trainer and senior women’s administrator at Dickinson for 16 years, and had worked as Dickinson football’s primary trainer for since the 1993 season. With the NFL players, she simply went about her business as normal, just doing her job. It didn’t take long for the Redskins to see they had a complete pro pitching in.

“Julie is an outstanding athletic trainer,” Lamar “Bubba” Tyer, then the team’s 31-year veteran of a head trainer, told Freeman. “Julie is excellent with her skills and with evaluating injuries. How she treats players is equal to myself and my two full-time trainers.”

The Denver native’s time with the team had actually been in the works for a while. The Redskins had trained at Dickinson in 1993, and that’s when Ramsey-Emrhein first met Tyer. He recognized her talent, and the two kept in touch.

“Bubba had been telling me that I ought to work camp with him some year,” Ramsey-Emrhein told Freeman at the time. “But I was never sure if he was serious. I was all set to do it last season (the Redskins trained at their practice facility in Ashburn, Va.) but I got called to jury duty. I had planned to work the (2001) camp anyway, even if they hadn’t come back to Dickinson. When they came back, it couldn’t have been better.”

Tyer’s camp practice was typically to hire six or seven interns to help him deal with he normal wear and tear on players. The temporary staffers were usually college trainers from all over the country. But to that point, a woman had never been asked to step in.

“It’s a first for me, as the head trainer for the Washington Redskins, to have a woman work with us and we were honored to have Julie,” Tyer told Freeman that August. “She’s an exceptional athletic trainer, man or woman.”

To be fair, while the NFL hadn’t yet crossed the gender line for full-time trainers in 2001, it wasn’t at all unheard of at the college level and for athletics in general. Ramsey-Emrhein was not an anomaly. At that point, more than half the certified trainers in the country were women, so it stood to reason that NFL players, had to have dealt with a female trainer at some point.

“I was treated with total respect,” Ramsey-Emrhein told Freeman at the time. “They were totally professional. They knew that I was there to do a job.”

Tyer, of course, was plenty familiar with the days when the thought of a woman playing a role in camp was laughable. But, he noted, progress happens.

“Ki-Jana Carter has a leg injury and I looked over and there is Julie wrapping his leg up and getting him ready to go like there was nothing to it,” he told Freeman. “Women and athletics have evolved. It’s a lot different now and players accept it.”

Ramsey-Emrhein left Dickinson in 2008 after nearly 22 years, and after 4 1/2 years teaching at California University of Pennsylvania, she returned to Lancaster County. These days, she’s the supervisor of sports medicine and athletic training at WellSpan in Lititz.