In honor of National Athletic Training Month, we are celebrating the certified athletic trainers of PT Solutions Physical Therapy! Athletic trainers dedicate their nights and weekends to ensure their student athletes are safely preventing and recovering from injuries. While it’s only National Athletic Training Month every March, we are proud of our sports medicine team 365 days a year! We caught up with some of our athletic trainers from Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina, to hear what they had to say about their career choice, favorite athlete success stories and what they want you to know about concussions.
What inspired you to become an AT?
Robert: Honestly, I found out about AT completely by accident while I was in undergraduate school and fell in love with it.
Kimsie: While looking into colleges, my high school hired an athletic trainer. Through her, I found out that I could help athletes through all stages of injury and I became really interested. So along with my interest in rehabilitation and prevention and Tiffany Wilkes, MS, ATC at Grace Baptist Academy in Chattanooga, TN, I followed that dream.
Joseph: I became an athletic trainer because I wanted to help people when they got hurt. I loved the idea of being a part of the recovery process from the initial injury all the way to their return to play.
Sarah: I always knew I would go into a medical profession, but I went back and forth between nursing, PA school, med school, vet school, etc. In college I started out as a general biology major to set myself up to be able to pursue any of those routes, but in my sophomore year I took a course in public speaking that helped me make up my mind. In the class I had to choose a topic that was of interest to me to research for the whole semester and then develop a presentation to give to a group of peers, professors, and medical professionals. I chose to study the reasons for gender differences in ACL tears, as my roommate had torn both of her ACLs in a 12-month period. From studying these gender differences and spending time with my college athletic trainer and learning more about their day-to-day job, I began to fall in love with the profession. I realized that athletic training was a perfect was to blend my love of athletics and my passion for medicine!
What’s your favorite thing about being an AT?
Robert: The best part is working with the athletic population and taking an athlete through rehab so he/she can return to play.
Sarah: One of my favorite parts about being an athletic trainer is that everyday at work is completely different from the last. You never know what injuries you are going to have to evaluate or what successes and improvements you will get to witness. It definitely keeps things exciting on a day-to-day basis. Specific to high school athletic training, I love the relationships that I get to build with players, coaches, and parents. Earning the trust of my athletes and coaches so that I am their “go-to” medical (or sometimes even personal) consult is a very rewarding feeling!
Joseph: Working with the athletes. No matter the age helping an athlete overcome an injury and get back on the field safely and back to their previous level is rewarding.
Dani: Besides helping my athletes get back to playing their sport, and the front row seats at their games, my favorite part is building relationships with some great kids.
Taylor: Feeling like I have made an impact in the world.
Amanda: Seeing an athlete doing what they love to do because I’m doing what I love to do, is really what it’s all about. It’s also pretty cool to have the kids tell me that they want to be an athletic trainer when they grow up because of the influence I had on them in high school.
Are there any common misconceptions regarding athletic training and the role you play at your school? Bust any AT myths here.
Sonny: No, we are not spandex wearing aerobic instructors…
Jerry: There are many people that think athletic trainers are personal trainers, we are licensed health care professionals and not a coach in your local gym!
Sarah: Although we do have a lot of knowledge in those areas, we are medical professionals that really are a ‘jack of all trades’, but our main roles include evaluating, assessing, and rehabilitating orthopedic injuries.
Kaitlyn: I’m in a school where they’ve never had an ATC before so I was able to show them how having an ATC in a high school is very beneficial. They see me do more than just taping and making ice bags.
Dani: I’m pretty sure we don’t have enough time to talk about the misconceptions regarding athletic training in general. I’m officially the first full time athletic trainer at my high school, so sometimes the “other” sports (i.e., tennis, golf, volleyball) are shocked that I’m not just there for football. They also don’t realize that athletic trainers are able to evaluate and diagnose injuries, help with injury prevention and wellness programs, and create and maintain treatment and rehab programs. Most people think we are only there for emergency care and of course to get ice and tape ankles.
Taylor: We do more than just taping. And yes, we went to school in order to do this.
Amanda: A lot of coaches and athletes are skeptical about going to the ATC because they automatically assume we’re going to bench you. It’s usually just the opposite!! I want to win a game just as badly as anyone else. We’re here to help athletes do the absolute best that they can do in the safest and most effective way.
Concussions are a big topic in the medical world right now, what’s something you wish more people knew about concussions and brain injury treatment or prevention?
Kimsie: I wish more people could understand that a concussion is not a ‘bell ringer’ or a ‘ding’. It is a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. Most people think that once a doctor says you’re cleared that means you just jump back into the game. That used to be the case, but now, we as athletic trainers work alongside our team doctors and other physicians to implement a strategic return to play to give our athletes the best possible outcomes to help prevent lingering concussion related issues down the road.
Robert: Many people believe concussions are just headaches from falling and hitting your head. However, concussions are disturbances in the brain’s function – cognitive, emotional, physical and sleep patterns.
Amanda: Nothing about concussions is cookie cutter, just because someone recovered in 8 days, doesn’t mean you will too. Everyone is different, and every concussion is different.
Joseph: Prevention is the key. Concussions are going to happen, but focusing on technique at a younger age in every sport can help reduce them. Whether its tackling technique or how to properly head a ball, technique can help decrease the number of concussions.
Dani: This one is easy… two things. One, athletic trainers see concussions regularly, more than any other medical professional, and as such, they are the best medical professional to be able to diagnose and treat an athlete with a concussion, other than a neurologist and/or vestibular specialist. Second, just because you did not lose consciousness does not mean you do not have a concussion.
Sonny: Don’t rush your child to the ER unless there are signs granting that referral. The ER will run all of their tests then come back with “well there isn’t anything else it could be so you must have a concussion.” That’s why we’re here, we can diagnosis and assist in treatment and management of a concussion.
Katlyn: Second impact syndrome. It’s when an athlete or individual gets a concussion and they either fail to report symptoms or are cleared too soon and receive another blow to the head. The second impacts swelling has no where to go and can become life threatening.
Andrea: Be conservative and not aggressive on return to play.
You’ve seen a lot of players come back from injury successfully, what’s the biggest success story you’ve seen?
Kimsie: I had an athlete who tore her ACL in her right knee twice and her left knee once. She came back from each of those injuries to play basketball again. The thing that makes this athlete such a success is that she never gave up, she could have easily become defeated, but she kept on trying and working hard. I have never met someone that worked as hard at school or her recovery.
Dani: I’d have to say watching one of my basketball girls, who tore her ACL the very first week of her senior year, not give up after she had surgery. She wasn’t able to play this year, nor is she looking to play in college, but if every athlete had half her fight to get back to 100%, our jobs would be easy.
Taylor: I saw a 16-year-old male athlete go through an ACL reconstruction, and four weeks post-op he ruptured his quad on the same leg. It was the longest and hardest physical therapy regime I have ever been a part of. Everyone told him that playing basketball might not be an option, but he found strength to work hard and ended up being able to play his senior year. He was even offered to be a walk-on collegiate basketball player. After a year of being a walk-on his school offered him a scholarship.
Tell us about a memorable moment/season/game you’ve witnessed during your AT career.
Marcus: I had a pretty solid girls basketball program that would always lose to one of the rival schools. Last year we matched up against that school in the state tournament after losing to them twice during the regular season. That day all the outdoor sports were cancelled due to bad weather and it seemed as though everyone came out to the game to support their respective schools. Our team ended up winning by almost 15 points. I’ve never wanted any of my school’s teams to succeed so bad. I was proud of them.
Robert: My boys’ basketball team making it to the Elite Eight! They had a GOOD season!
Joseph: Watching my softball team battle through injuries and make the post-season only to be in an elimination game down five runs with one out. They responded with 5 runs to tie the game and ended up winning the game in 8 innings and went on to win the conference championship.
Taylor: It was a women’s basketball team. They went all the way to the state final and lost in overtime. That group of girls was an excellent example of what girls can be and do. A perfect mix of strength and grace.
Amanda: Last spring, during KHMS baseball season. We went to the Final Four and two of my athletes were drafted into the MLB. One of them was the 11th overall pick. That was such a cool season to be a part of.
What’s the most important advice you give your athletes?
Jessica: Take care of your body – nutrition, rest, recovery and time off are all important along with training and practice.
Kaitlyn: In whatever you do it give your all. Its not worth doing something halfway.
Andrea: Don’t be a negative statistic.
Marcus: To be successful at something should always be your main goal, it is very tough, but also very rewarding at the end.
Robert: You have to practice, whenever you get injured you have to hit rehab hard and everyday to get back to playing with no issues!
Kimsie: I always remind my athletes that if you don’t give your body time to recover from all the crazy things you put it through, then you will stay injured and hurt. Many times those nagging aches and pains are just our bodies way of saying ‘give me a break’.
Dani: #buttandgut No, really. I think the entire student body at South Paulding knows that if they come to me for a back or lower extremity problem, more than likely we are going to work on core stabilization and glute activation. Why? Because we don’t use them correctly. When an athlete comes to me, and I have another student with me, he/she will tell them “you don’t use your butt and gut correctly” without me even saying a word.
Sonny: The harder you work in rehab the better outcome you will get on the field. We are not here to hold your hand-you must take responsibility and push yourself to be the best you can and we will help you get there.
Taylor: If you want the success you must put in the work.
Katlyn: Have fun!
Anything else you want people to know about athletic training?
Jessica: It’s a booming profession that is getting bigger and better every day!
Kaitlyn: Your ATC knows best!
Jerry: I am proud that PT Solutions has incorporated athletic trainers into the company and are promoting the profession.
Marcus: That it is a fun and spiritually rewarding profession.
Robert:We do so much more than tape ankles under 1 minute! Athletic Trainers are the safer approach to work, life and sport!
Joseph: Athletic training is a growing field. We aren’t just the people who tape on sidelines anymore, we are branching out and serving a broad population base. Athletic trainers are also a valuable commodity in the industrial and military setting.
Dani: My goal as an athletic trainer is not to keep you off the field, out of practice, sitting on the bench during the game, but rather to provide the care it takes to help keep you playing the sport you love.
Sonny: We’ve been making khakis and fanny packs look cool since 1950.