March is National Athletic Training Month — a great time to celebrate the care that athletic trainers provide to student-athletes in our communities.
Athletic trainers do much more than splint fingers and wrap ankles. They are certified healthcare professionals trained in preventing, identifying and treating a wide variety of sports injuries. Athletic trainers work with high schools, colleges, club teams and professional teams of all sizes. They work closely with physicians to ensure that an athlete’s injury is properly treated and with the athlete during his/her rehabilitation.
Following are personal stories from Accelerated athletic trainers. We are proud of what they do.
Illinois Athletic Trainer Michelle
While it doesn’t seem like a big deal, our starting quarterback dropped a 45 lb. plate on his toe, causing a severe laceration and injury to the toenail. His toenail had to be removed and he received eight stitches. He was treated with lidocaine cream (a topical antibiotic) and bandaged for the healing process. Finally, an orthoplast (material designed for use in splinting) was prepared for him. He made a full recovery and returned to the field.
Illinois Athletic Trainer Jacob
Our Show Choir coach asked me to see one of her students, who was having some knee pain. Upon evaluation, I discovered the student had dislocated her patella (kneecap), while dancing. She was in a great deal of pain and very upset. After calming her down, the patella relocated on its own. I helped her family get an appointment with a doctor to evaluate her injury. Currently, she plans to start PT at Accelerated after her follow up visit next week and to continue dancing afterwards.
Illinois Athletic Trainer Christina
A story that comes to mind for me is a football player that had compartment syndrome (a limb condition that occurs after injury) in his thigh. On a Friday night during a football game, he was hit in the thigh. He came to see me the following week, complaining of soreness there. He could still run and participate, but it was painful. His anterior thigh was bigger on observation and harder to palpate. He saw our team doctor and was in the operating room later that night. His incision was left open for a number of hours until the swelling decreased enough to close it. After therapy during the winter season, he was able to return to track season that same year.
Illinois Athletic Trainer Amanda
One of my starting female basketball players tore her left ACL. She had torn her right ACL when she was in 8th grade. Devastated by another injury and missing the rest of a successful basketball season, she quickly redirected her frustration to rehabilitation and coming back even stronger for her senior year. That next season, she was doing great and talking to several recruiters about playing college basketball. However, in the middle of her senior season, she tore her right ACL for a second time in five years. She struggled with the injury relapse, missing her second basketball season and quickly realizing that college basketball probably won’t be in her future. I continued to support this athlete through her third ACL reconstruction surgery and rehab. We focused on the positive things and were able to redirect her future at college, without the prospect of playing college basketball.
Today, she is a freshman in college and flourishing in other activities that she has redirected her focus and energy into. When she comes home from school, she continues to stop by and keeps me up to date.
Indiana Athletic Trainer Randy
I worked with professional baseball players for several years. During that time, one of my players went through ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction, also called Tommy John surgery. He was getting close to making his return when he started to have painful setbacks. Once the setbacks started, he called me multiple times a day. He asked me about his therapy, his throwing program and my thoughts on what might be causing his issues. This continued for a few weeks and then he had a follow up with his physician and some testing. He texted and emailed me with test results and called to talk about options. He ultimately ended up needing a second procedure, which alleviated his symptoms. He is now fully rehabilitated and actually just had a showcase for several teams in the hopes of returning to the big leagues.
Illinois Athletic Trainer Laura
A football player at my school sustained a neck injury during a tackle. He was up and walking around by the time we were called onto the field. The athlete said he had neck pain and mild tenderness on his spine. We encouraged him to remain still as we continued our examination. We called 911 and spine boarded him (a rigid support for patients suspected of spinal injuries) for transportation. He was diagnosed with three fractured cervical vertebrae. Although it ended his son’s football season, the athlete’s father was so thankful for his care and treatment on the field.
Illinois Athletic Trainer Tyler
My athlete was a football player and was well on his way to becoming one of the better football players due to his versatility, size and speed. He was in position to make a play when his knee buckled underneath him. He was holding his knee and saying that ‘something is not right’. We got him to our sideline doctor, who suspected an injury to his ACL. Several days later, he was on the sideline in crutches, cheering on his team. He began pre-habilitation with us in the athletic training room as soon as he could. He wanted to be well prepared for surgery. After his surgery, he spent time in the athletic training room every day and going to physical therapy. He is thriving and still playing football.
Illinois Athletic Trainer Ryan
At the start of the fall sports season, I was approached by a senior football player. He had just returned from his pre-season physical and the physician was concerned with the pain and instability he was having in his right shoulder. I reassured him that we would work together with his doctor to make sure he was able to play his final football season.
When the athlete’s MRI results came back, he had a significant tear of his labrum and would eventually require surgery to repair the damage. This news was devastating to him because he assumed his season was done. I spoke with him and his father to reassure them that many athletes have played again with this same injury and were very successful. His doctor prescribed physical therapy along with a shoulder brace.
He was able to manage both PT and practice in order to maintain his starting position. With no major setbacks, his senior season was a success and he started all ten games at tight end and received multiple season honors for his outstanding play. He is now about two months out from surgery and is looking forward to playing football in college and studying to be an athletic trainer.
Illinois Athletic Trainer Bob
My athlete is a senior who recovered from a labral tear this past summer. In his junior year of football season, he dislocated his left shoulder for the second time. We referred him to a physician, who suggested working with a PT at Accelerated and with us in the athletic training room in order to avoid surgery. However, the athlete did require labral surgery. After his surgery, he followed up with an Accelerated PT and was able to return to the field his senior year and also wrestle. He played the entire season without reinjuring his left shoulder and with a winning record.
Illinois Athletic Trainer Nicole
Over the past nine months, a male high school athlete dealt with two severe injuries in two different sports. In his junior year, he injured his shoulder playing football, learning that he had a Bankart Lesion (shoulder dislocation). He began physical therapy at the Accelerated clinic to prepare for spring baseball season. Since his shoulder was still healing, his participation in baseball had limitations. While picking up a bat, the athlete’s shoulder incurred a sublation (temporary dislocation), so he was referred to an orthopedic surgeon. It was determined that he needed surgery to repair it, but it could wait until after the upcoming football season.
Unfortunately, while starting in his third football game of the season, he broke his fibula (ankle) and required surgery. His follow-up treatment consisted of visiting the high school athletic training room daily and physical therapy three times a week. He still had to face another surgery for his shoulder, with physical therapy to follow, at Accelerated. His junior baseball season, senior football season, and senior baseball season were all compromised due to injuries, but he never gave up and we maximized his ability to play.
Illinois Athletic Trainer Stephanie
I treated a senior football player with a forefoot sprain within the first week of practice. I encouraged him to see a physician for X-rays to rule out a Lisfranc (midfoot) injury, but it was negative. He spent one week resting, wrapping, and icing. When he could move it around comfortably, we started doing rehabilitation in the athletic training room, starting off with non-weight bearing exercises and progressing to weight bearing 4x a week. After three weeks of therapy, I had him back on the field playing his senior year.
Indiana Athletic Trainer Allison
At a varsity football game, one of my athletes felt his knee ‘pop’ during a play. Upon examination, I thought that he possibly had torn his meniscus. He underwent surgery shortly thereafter to repair it. He worked hard in his physical therapy at Accelerated and his recovery was smooth and quick. I also worked with him at the school several days a week to improve his proprioception and keep up his cardio. He was a great patient who was eager to get back on the field. His diligence with physical therapy allowed him to rejoin his team and win the semi-state championship on our home field.
Nebraska Athletic Trainer Richard
I started working with a sophomore football player/wrestler, when he sustained his first ACL injury. During his last JV football game of the year, he tore his right ACL. I started rehabilitation with him immediately and had him ready for summer camp. He returned his junior year and was having a great season, however during his fifth game, he tore his left ACL. We again worked hard with his rehabilitation and had him ready for summer camp. He returned to high school for his senior year fully recovered and able to play a full season of both football and wrestling. The young man is now a junior in college and is having a great college football career.
Illinois Athletic Trainer Angela
Our football team was enjoying a 6-0 record, off to the best start in the past 10 years. This even meant that we would get to play a regional game, which our team hasn’t been able to do in the last few years. Everything was going really well and our athletes were giving their all and then our senior captain took a pretty aggressive hit on the outside of his left knee. Our team doctor and I instantly knew something was wrong. Upon further evaluation, we suspected that he had a Grade 2+ tear in his MCL. All the player wanted to know was “What are my chances of playing in the regional game and what do I need to do to make that possible?” The regional game was in three weeks and I knew he had a steep hill to climb to even have a chance of passing the physician’s functional testing, let alone playing in a full football game.
Instead of sitting out of P.E and resting every day, the athlete came down to the athletic training room to perform his rehabilitation exercises. Then again for 45 minutes after school, before going out and watching practice.
He ended up coming back and playing in the first regional game, which we won. We ended up losing our next game and finished the season 9-2. He finished the season being named All-Conference and made the All-State Team. He is narrowing down where he wants to further his football career. Where ever he ends up, the school and football program will be extremely lucky to have a person like him on their team.
Illinois Athletic Trainer Maggie
During my first year at a high school, one of my football players tore his meniscus. I helped him get into the doctor and get into physical therapy post-op, in addition to working with him in the athletic training room. He then started wrestling season, which was going well until he tore his meniscus again during sectionals. Again, I helped him get into the doctor and helped him work hard in therapy to get his strength and range of motion back. This year he made it through his senior football season, and is now in the middle of a (very) winning wrestling season, with the hope of getting a full ride to college for wrestling. Helping him recover from two partial menisci and come back with the possibility of placing in state and being able to get a scholarship for college has been a very rewarding journey.
Illinois Athletic Trainer Wesley
A female senior basketball player fractured her right index finger during a game. For three weeks, she came for rehabilitation in the athletic training room where she performed stretches and exercises to keep the muscles loose and strong. Her first game back, she scored 19 points, had six rebounds, three assists, and two steals. During that tournament, she averaged 17 points (much higher than before the fracture) and was selected to the All-Tournament team. She has continued her offensive tear and most recently score 21 points in an upset win against a conference rival.
Illinois Athletic Trainer Lindsay
Every athletic trainer has their “MVP’s”, the athletes who are in the athletic training room almost as much as we are. They are constantly injured, or “finjured” (fake injuries). Many of these athletes are our favorites, but in the end just don’t spend much time with their sport.
One particular athlete was not one of these. Until his junior year, I barely even knew his name. This student-athlete was moved to the varsity team as a sophomore and had great success as a catcher and big hitter. Early one spring, he approached me, complaining of some back pain. I did an initial evaluation and noticed muscle spasm, a tight/closed SI joint and a lot of tenderness along specific areas of his spine. After doing a week of light rehab and no baseball related activities, his pain did not diminish. At this time, I referred him to our team physician fearing his issue was more than a typical muscle strain, but involved his spine.
After a routine exam and following the appropriate procedure for diagnostic testing, he was diagnosed with L5 spondylosis. This was devastating because he was being heavily recruited by many Division I University.
Soon after, we began conservative treatment and rehab. He was doing well and feeling great after several weeks. Our team doctor cleared him to return to a hitting program and to play the outfield, as opposed to catching which is most likely how he injured himself in the first place. His first two innings back, he hit like a superstar, even sending one over the fence. Then, on the second game, he hit a bomb. I could tell the way he was rounding the bases that something wasn’t right. He came back to the dugout to tell me he felt a pop and the pain was worse than ever before. After seeing our team physician again, and after another CT, he learned that he now had spondylolisthesis.
After a long period of rest and using a bone stimulator, he and I began his rehab over the summer at the school. Happily, he went on to have an amazing senior year. He was recruited by many schools, and ended up signing with a Division I University.
Illinois Athletic Trainer Erik
About a year ago, I was at my undergrad internship at a University. The head varsity captain of the men’s tennis team came to see me regarding knee pain. After my evaluation, I believed he possibly had a torn medial meniscus. I referred him to a doctor, who confirmed the injury was a bucket handle tear of the medial meniscus. The athlete underwent surgery and immediately started rehab under my supervision. I started out with the typical treatment, with quad sets, straight leg raises, etc. and then to more workouts that were specific to tennis. I changed things up every few days to keep his interest and desire strong. After working with the athlete three to four days a week for four weeks, he was released to play.
This experience was rewarding because I was able to adapt the rehab program to the individual athlete and was able to keep him focused and excited to come to rehab.
Michigan Athletic Trainer John
During football season, a quarterback went down with a Grade II ankle sprain. His ankle was iced immediately on the sideline, placed in a splint with compression he was put on crutches. We met with his parents to explain the situation and to recommend X-rays to rule out a fracture of any kind. What made this an even greater issue for the athlete, was that he was on the basketball team as well.
The following Monday he reported to my training room. His X-rays were negative and had followed the home protocol to manage swelling and pain. We began with massage, contrast bath and range of motion exercises. Due to the fact that we had kept the swelling under control, he progressed rather quickly to achieving full, pain-free range of motion. He quickly progressed to doing strengthening exercises using various strengths of Theraband. I also trained him on the stationary bike to improve range and maintain his cardiovascular fitness. Within two weeks he was fully ambulatory. We also worked on balance and proprioception. By the end of week three, we had fitted him with an ankle brace and supplemented the ankle stability with tape. He was able to slowly return to practice and team workouts. He continued to work on his ankle strength and stability. By week four, he was performing at 90% or better.
In the end, he played in the first regular season game in basketball and has not missed a game since.
Illinois Athletic Trainer Alyssa
I treated a senior who was a three sport athlete. He had a great football season with no injuries. However, during basketball season, during the first quarter of the first game, he went up for a lay-up. I knew as soon as he landed that something was not right. I did my quick on court assessment and thought that he blew out his ACL. I made an appointment with our team doctor the next day. The MRI showed he had completely torn his ACL and meniscus. The team doctor invited me to watch his surgery. It was a great learning experience to see the knee from the inside. After the surgery, the athlete worked with me in the athletic training room every day after school. He had the drive and will to get back.
When he finally got clearance to play, it was baseball season and it was the most exciting game that I have ever watched. The smile on his face when he ran across home plate to win the game in the 9th inning was the most exhilarating feeling I have ever had in my 12 years in the training profession. He is now playing football at a Division II college.
Illinois Athletic Trainer Ricardo
My story for National Athletic Training Month is about a basketball player who sustained an ankle injury. The athlete was not aware of what an athletic trainer could provide. The following Monday after his injury, I noticed he was not participating at practice. I told him who I was and what I specialize in and he quickly agreed to have me examine his ankle. I suggested he be seen by our team physician. We both had the same injury assessment and the athlete began rehabilitation in the athletic training room. One week later, he was back on the basketball court. During a timeout, he walked up to me and said, “Thank you! My ankle feels great, as if it never was injured.” That alone makes me appreciate what I can do as a Certified Athletic Trainer.
Illinois Athletic Trainer Kate
During football season, my athletes experienced a handful of concussions that all seemed to occur within a span of about 10 days. Two athletes stand out the most, due to their tremendous attitudes, willingness to return to play and ability to have patience (with me) during this time.
One of the athletes took a hit to the head and continued to play through the first half. At halftime, I noticed that he was throwing up. He had all the signs that pointed to concussion. (light-headed, nauseous, vomiting, headache) I pulled him from the game to begin his recovery process. A few days later, the second athlete sustained a concussion. This athlete sought me out after the hit to his head and said,” I feel funny,” a classic phrase for concussions. I immediately pulled him from the game and spoke to his dad.
As the weeks went on, I continued to monitor these two athletes, as they kept me updated on their symptoms. EVERY DAY these kids were in my office, checking in and patiently waiting for me to give them the green light to begin return-to-play (RTP) activities. Within a day or two they were side by side performing RTP exercises. They were very dedicated to the team and even came in an hour earlier on a Saturday to perform their final day of RTP. As an AT, I appreciate athletes that love their sport and are willing to do whatever is necessary to get back on the field.
Indiana Athletic Trainer Jen
One of our top gymnasts, being recruited by many top D1 colleges, had a rough injury-riddled season last year. Many injuries were bony-related and all seemed to happen right after coming back from another injury. Due to the constant issues, she was unable to compete much and could not finish her season. Because of her history, I began to suspect there was more behind why she was constantly injured. I performed the Functional Movement Screen and found a couple of imbalances that we could address to make her more successful. I also suspected that she was lacking many things in her daily nutrition. I referred her to a Sports Nutritionist and she began a program to fix those issues. Since then, she has had the normal gymnastics aches and pains, but has not had any of those nagging injuries or stress fractures that previously kept her out of competition. She had an incredibly successful season last year and even earned the title of National Champion.