Trainers essential for player recovery, well being

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Author: Riley Kimball (Senior Writer)

In the most important training period of the season, Emily Watkins’ (first-year) leg started hurting. “My IT band in my right leg was really tight, affecting not only my knee but my hip as well,” she said. “The trainers stretched and heated it. I also have bad shoulders . . . minor tendonitis. They heated and stretched my shoulders, and they would do some weird electric thing to it. They also gave me some exercises to do to help with the pain.” Her time in the Athletic Training Center helped her make a substantial comeback, and she finished her season as an All-SCIAC swimmer.

Watkins’ recovery was no fluke. Head trainer John Sweet and athletic trainers Taylor Woods and Laura Friess help athletes in similar straits every day. “We’re here to minimize the risk of sports injuries, to allow you to have the optimum experience as an athlete and to mitigate the injuries that do occur,” Sweet said.

“We do prevention, care and rehabilitation of athletic injuries,” he said. “We also handle administrative duties such as the health care management of athletes, NCAA compliance, coach certification in CPR and AED, handling insurance claims.” 

This work is often seven days a week, spanning 12 to 14 hour days, in which they cover every team’s practice, all varsity home competitions and high-risk club sports like men’s lacrosse and men’s and women’s rugby. With around 450 NCAA varsity student-athletes and teams beginning and ending practices at all hours of the day, the Athletic Training Center is almost always bustling.

Sweet, Friess, and Woods are used to working in this hectic environment. All three are Athletic Trainers Certified (ATC), Sweet is an emergency medical technician and Woods is a certified strength and conditioning specialist. The enthusiasm the trainers bring to the facility outweighs the importance of the work.

“I actually like that we have so many students to work with because almost a quarter of the student body are athletes,” Woods said. “And with such a smart student body, when I explain the biomechanics of something, the athletes actually get it. It’s a lot more rewarding than working at a place where the ‘student’ part of ‘student-athlete’ is mostly ignored.”

But at peak hours, there are often as many as 30 to 40 student-athletes in the Center, most of whom require much more than ibuprofen or a bandage. Physicians assist the trainers. Kaiser Permanente sends a physician to practice general sports medicine and Congress Medical sends an orthopedic sports medicine practitioner. 

In the fall, these guest physicians come to football games, and throughout the year they run a sports injury clinic on Wednesdays and help at playoffs and other major events. “For a Division III institution, the athletes have access to some outstanding medical care,” Sweet said.

The staff of student trainers provide further support to the trainers. Students get firsthand experience treating and rehabilitating injuries. “Working in the training room changed everything for me,” Matty Yavorsky (senior) said. “It aided my decision in becoming a physical therapist by providing an opportunity to see what the day-to-day life of a trainer looks like and giving an insight to the life of a PT.”

Next year Yavorsky will be studying Physical Therapy at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

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