As a coach for both girls ice and field hockey, english teacher Emma Huellmantel greatly appreciates the provision of athletic trainers.
“It’s nice to have that reassurance that (an injury is) not a larger problem, because there are cases when you could be pushed,” Huellmantel said. “It’s helpful to have somebody who’s experienced and knowledgeable able to tell you, “Hey, you need to be resting,” or “you need to be icing” or “you can play.” That is something that we can’t always do as coaches.”
The athletic training room offers a large space for athletes to stretch, with posters of step-by-step examples of different positions to target certain muscles. There is an ice machine and an ice bath to help athletes with muscle inflammation, along with the athletic trainers who help diagnose injuries, provide supportive taping and exercises and refer athletes to doctors for more serious injuries.
If not for services such as pre-taping, Huellmantel believes many of her players would be injured more often and would have to stick to the bench.
“I also think that the trainers do a lot as far as education for athletes. They help the athletes figure out how to better play in the game in a way that doesn’t exacerbate their injuries,” Huellmantel said. “So I have been relying on the trainers as a coach for the past however many seasons. They are very important to us.”
The current athletic trainer, Sam Viola, insists that the importance of having one on staff is “unequivocally” important, having experienced a situation at a school where she worked before, where if not for her presence, a student could have lost his life to a brain injury he got in the weight room. Viola attributes her importance to her extra background in sports medicine, with a bachelors in athletic training as well as a master’s degree in sports medicine.
“(Coaches) don’t take classes related to diagnosis, evaluation with upper body and lower body or lower extremity injuries,” Viola said. “So we actually go to school for it.”
A recent study performed by the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago found that schools that don’t provide athletic trainers as a basic part of their staff found “recurrent injury rates were six times higher in girls’ soccer and nearly three times higher in girls’ basketball” because of the lack of ability to apply evidence-based injury prevention strategies. Despite this, only one-third of high schools currently offer their students an athletic trainer.
To help students interested in treating sport-related injuries, a program is offered for students to spend time with the athletic trainers after school, working in the athletic training office or following teams during practices and games. Junior Darby Pickford enrolled in the program this fall and has found the experience very educative, working up to three times a week learning how to help students.
Viola first teaches the students how to wrap ankles through examples, moving on to supervising the students as they wrapped peers’ ankles until she is confident they’ve gotten the hang of it.
“If we weren’t doing it right she’d help guide us through it,” Pickford said. “Then after the football games we’d always go into the athletic training room and we’d talk about one thing that we learned. Then, we expand on that and then she’d turn it into a lesson.”
With student athletes who spend a lot of time in physically extraneous activities, if a student is noticing a problem while playing or exercising, Viola advises them to head the training room right away.
“That way we can decipher if it’s something that we can push through or if it’s something that is a little more serious and might need a referral.”