I was that kid in high school. The athlete who always worked hard, did well, and always got injured. I would get injured from pushing too hard. Then, I would push too hard to get back into shape and get injured again. Coming back from that injury, and once again, I’d push too hard, too quick and another injury. I had stress fractures, pulled muscles, torn ligaments, broken bones, pretty much if it could be injured, I did it. It seemed that high school was an endless parade of ice, heat, contrast, compression, elevation, crutches, doctor visits, “therapy” from my coach, “therapy” from my dad (also a coach). It never seemed to end.
I went to college, made it through my half way through my first season, and yep, injured again. This time though for the first time I was sent to the athletic trainer. I had no clue who this person was or what they did, merely that I was supposed to go see them for an injury. I went, and I have to say, I didn’t have that great of an experience. There was only one athletic trainer there, and she was swamped with athletes. I waited patiently for my evaluation, found out that what was wrong with me, got taped for it and sent off with directions on what to do for it and to return the next day. I never really learned much about what she did, and I never went back. I’d pushed through injuries before, and she just seemed so busy, that there was no need to bother her again.
I finished the season without returning to the athletic trainer, and the following one as well. I ended up leaving school shortly after my third year and never gave another thought to the athletic trainer. The degree I had pursuing didn’t sufficiently interest me, so I went out into the job world looking for a paycheck.
I spent a couple years in restaurant management, before realizing that it wasn’t for me either. I wasn’t sure what to do next, when my father suggested that maybe I go to school to become an athletic trainer. The school he worked at had an athletic trainer that was coming to the school a couple of days a week and he said that they were doing fantastic things with the athletes and injuries there. He explained to me what an athletic trainer was and what all they could do. It sounded interesting, and I did have a “strong” background in athletic injuries so I thought, what the heck.
Once I got accepted into my new school and started into the athletic training program I finally started to really learn about what an athletic trainer was. My dad’s information barely scratched the surface. I enthusiastically dove into my studies, and spent as much time as possible in the athletic training room learning even more. At the end of my first year I applied for and got accepted into the athletic training program (programs are very limited on how many students that they can have at a time. At the time I was accepted in, they could only have 8 students per certified athletic trainer).
By this point I was hooked. I started to visualize myself being in a position to help athletes like myself. I was learning how to help prevent athletes from getting injured, as well as how to properly treat them and get them safely back into full participation as quickly, so they wouldn’t keep getting reinjured like I did. I was learning about nutrition, and sport psychology, as well as emergency medical care. I was being armed with all sorts of tools to take care of not just athletes, but anyone with a musculoskeletal injury, or in need of emergency medical care.
After graduating I went on to get a master’s degree, and passed my national certification exam. I was eager to get out there and help young athletes. I know my coaches, and my father meant well, and took care of me the best they could, but I was so much better trained and knowledgeable, that I knew I could do a better job for my athletes. And I vowed that I would.
To this day, that is still part of my drive, making sure that my athletes don’t go through all the injuries that I did. I can’t prevent all of the injuries, but when they do happen, I do my best to make sure that they are properly cared for, properly rehabbed, and returned to their sport as quickly and as safely as possible, and educated in ways to help prevent that injury from occurring again.
The money is little, the hours are long, but my true job satisfaction and “pay check” comes every time I see an athlete walk out of the athletic training room for the last time, and step back on to the playing field healthy, strong and safe.