Athletic trainers work hard to help athletes

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By ROGER BROUGH

A football player comes off  the field during a game gushing blood from his mouth, despite having a mouth guard to protect against such an injury. Further investigation shows the player bit his lower lip and fixing it as quickly as the player requested would not be easy.

This is just one of many experiences athletic trainers deal with on a regular basis.

Athletic trainers are some of the many people who work tirelessly, hour after hour behind-the-scenes to ensure the safety and security of athletes here at BYU, like Jimmer Fredette, Miles Batty and Jake Heaps.

One of the trainers for BYU this summer, Portland native Anna Collet, recounted such an experience as described above.

“I turned around to get some supplies to help a football player but his chin guard was filling with blood from a gash,” Collett said. “It’s difficult to get the results you need immediately, and the athletes always want to be playing and not sitting.”

The stories trainers can tell are many, but understanding their day-to-day grind as athletic trainers reveals more about what their true passions and responsibilities are. Depending on the sport, trainers can spend even more time at training facilities than the athletes themselves. They prepare equipment for practice, tape ankles, ice injuries, etc. After practice usually entails re-evaluation of players’ status, massaging hurt muscles and putting equipment away.

Athletic trainers also have to be creative problem solvers, especially when they train in high school settings with limited resources and supplies.

“You have to get creative and resourceful because some things you don’t have a set way of taking care of things,” said Deniece Oates, a BYU staff trainer. “You have to find things that work with taping, padding, etc. Normal jobs aren’t going to work. We once used an elbow brace donated by BYU’s football team as a knee brace for a high school player.”

Oates graduated in 1998 in athletic training and helps oversee athletic training majors as they interact with the men’s soccer team. She said she has enjoyed her time at BYU, especially with BYU understanding her family situation.

“A great thing about working here for me is being able to be a mom and still work,” Oates said. “If my baby cries, anyone close to her will pick her up and take care of her, so it’s awesome how it all works out. It’s a pretty unusual situation to work with just one team part-time and still be a mom, especially bringing your kids to work.”

Even though BYU can be understanding of other commitments, this job is not an easy one. Training with football is an important sport that athletic trainers experience, since a majority of sports injuries occur in full-contact sports. Football is extremely time consuming due to the nature of the sport, with lots of equipment involved as well.

“You’ve got to be willing to work hard and spend a lot of hours with football,” said Jonathon Baxter, a senior in the athletic training program. “People think it’s just fun and games working with popular athletes, but we work 20-25 hours a week without pay. If you’re with football, you usually work 40-50 hours. It’s a big commitment.”

Athletes have all benefited from a trainer’s input or help at one point or another, and more than that, the BYU trainers have gone above and beyond their profession to create an atmosphere of trust and comfort for every player they work with.

“The trainers are always willing to do whatever you ask to get better, whether it’s rubbing out a calf or taping out an ankle or giving a band-aid,” said Toni Niccoli, a sophomore forward on the men’s soccer team. “The trainers are awesome and since I spend a lot of time with them because of my injury, I think they know a lot about my life now.”

The relationship between coaching staff and athletic trainers is just another of many crucial elements to sports, since the outcome of the game can be changed by an athlete that may or may not have to sit out due to an injury. BYU men’s soccer head coach Chris Watkins works directly with Oates to maintain his players’ health and ensure the team has the best possible chance to win.

“The trainers are an integral part of our staff that help contribute to our success,” Watkins said. “Without their help and training, we wouldn’t be able to make the quick decisions about players’ health when they’re on the field playing.”

The student trainers all have different motivations for wanting to become an athletic trainer. Baxter said he loves the human body and how it all works together to do amazing things.

“I spent a year in physical therapy in high school and had great people that worked with me, and I loved their ability to make my awful injury better,” Collett said. “Rehab stinks because athletes want to play, not sit out. Trainers made the process fun and more enjoyable, and that’s what inspired me.”

No matter what the motivation is, working as an athletic trainer is a rewarding and difficult job, but one that brings a lot of happiness and success to the sports programs, as well as to the trainers.

 

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