The trainers behind the teams
When one thinks about high school sports they often focus on the athletes, coaches and game days. Spectators fill the stands to watch their friends and children play a game they love. The game starts on time, the players have everything they need and coaches are ready to send their athletes onto the field to hopefully bring home a big win. Behind all the excitement though are hard working individuals who help keep all these teams running. One of the most essential people in high school sports is the athletic trainer.
Athletic trainers are people who help care for and rehabilitate athletes. Trainers do tasks such as taping athletes, treating injuries, fitting braces and supplying teams with water and food in order to stay nourished during practices and games. To be an athletic trainer you need a bachelor’s degree and according to the National Athletic Trainers Association, you must “pass a comprehensive test administered by the Board of Certification (BOC)” followed by “ongoing continuing education requirements in order to remain certified. Athletic trainers must also work in collaboration with a physician and within their state practice act.”
However in order to be eligible for the BOC exam an athletic trainer is required to complete “a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE) that must instruct the Competencies within the curriculum.” An athletic trainer is basically a lower-level physician. They do not have to spend as many years in school as most doctors do, but they do need to know a wide variety of things in order to do their job properly.
“According to a 2011 study,  while physicians were present at the time of injury in only 7.7% of cases of reported concussions suffered by high school athletes in the 2009-2010 school year, athletic trainers were on site for at least 70%,” said Lindsey Barton Straus, head researcher of major platform for parents of athletes "MomsTeam." Before an ambulance is called, the athletic trainer is in charge of assessing the athlete and determining whether an injury is minor or serious.
One injury that has a very specific protocol is concussions. When an athlete gets a concussion their brain basically gets a bruise, which in some cases causes swelling. An athletic trainer must follow a very specific plan in order for the athlete to return to play. If the athlete returns to play before completely healed then major issues could develop. This is why following protocol and providing the proper rehabilitation is so important if athletes are to return to their sports.
Many may wonder why an athletic trainer is the best person to determine and deal with athletes injuries and return to sports. The easy answer is, athletic trainers are closer with the athletes they work with than the primary doctor. Athletic trainers are at every practice and every game so they get an understanding of what each athlete is like.
At a small school like San Joaquin Memorial, athletic trainer Luke Sundstorm has the advantage of really knowing every athlete on a more personal level due to the small campus population.
This comes in handy during the football season. During just one season quite a few players will suffer from minor head injuries. Sundstorm has the advantage of really determining if they have a concussion or not. When someone gets a concussion their personality changes slightly so Sundstorm, knowing almost every football player personally, can quickly determine when an athlete is acting off.
Regardless of how hard being an athletic trainer might be, athletic trainers love their job.
“When I was 16 I had a grade 2 strain to my rhomboid in my back causing me to have to give up baseball altogether. I didn’t have an athletic trainer to help get me through the injury since I was homeschooled and playing through little league. After losing my chances to play baseball in college I wanted to find a major that would allow me to make sure no one else had to go through what I did. Hence finding athletic training,” explained Sundstrom.
Sundstrom’s favorite part of being an athletic trainer is “watching [his] athletes get back into their sport after being injured. After experiencing an injury, a lot of athletes get really down and think they’ll never play again or be able to play at a competitive level.“ Sundstrom loves to show them that they can come back even stronger than before the injury with hard work and diligence.
Thank you to the athletic trainers who do everything they can to help athletes stay strong and healthy. Sometimes in life it is the people behind-the-scenes who really help run the show.