Joshua Mabry, Campus Carrier Asst. Sports Editor
People are generally aware of the long hours and hard work that student athletes put into what they do, but a group that is often overlooked in the athletic department is the sports medicine team.
The sports medicine team puts in just as many hours as the athletes do, which causes them to be away from their families for extended periods of time. However, many on the sports medicine team said they would not trade their job for the world.
Ginger Swann, assistant athletic director for sports medicine, said that within the sports medicine department, she focuses on insurance and culture. She also has meetings with the training staff.
The best part of working in sports medicine is getting to work with the students, according to Swann.
“The ability to develop relationships with these people and go through this stage of life, helping people find their niche, that’s my favorite part of the job,” Swann said.
Swann said that a difficult aspect of working in sports medicine is when seniors graduate.
“The impact students make on me is strong,” Swann said.
Kat Duncanson, assistant athletic trainer for football and men’s basketball, said that athletic trainers and student trainers have to be at all practices and games to provide water, treatment and rehabilitation of medical injuries if needed.
Athletic trainers try to prevent as many injuries as possible so that there are fewer injuries to treat, according to Duncanson.
“Any injuries that do happen in practice, we treat them,” Duncanson said. “We then get the athletes set up with doctors and get them set up with physical therapists if need be.”
After surgery, the sports medicine team completes rehabilitation with the athletes to try to get them back on the field as quickly as possible, Duncanson said.
While the parts of an athletic trainer’s job listed above may be more well-known, there are more aspects to the job than what meets the eye, according to Duncanson.
“A part of our job that anyone who is not an athlete or within the athletic realm wouldn’t understand is that we’re literally with these athletes day in and day out,” Duncanson said.
The sports medicine team has to go everywhere that the athletes go, including all practices and home and away games.
Duncanson said that having to be with the athletes all hours of the day creates a bond like no other between trainers and student athletes.
People from the outside world may think that athletic trainers and student trainers have no bond with student athletes, other than giving them their water bottle occasionally. This could not be further from the truth, according to Duncanson.
“People don’t understand how much time we put into the relationships with these athletes,” Duncanson said. “That’s the coolest part of our job.”
Duncanson said that when an athlete has an injury, the trainers get to spend even more time with the athlete because they have to do treatment and rehabilitation.
“Once they get back out on the field, the first game that they get to play in, it’s one of those things where it’s like ‘That’s my trophy,’” Duncanson said. “Because I was able to do my job, you are able to do your job.”
Duncanson said that this feeling of excitement for an athlete recovering would be absent if the athlete and trainer did not already know each other well.
Senior student trainer Ivy Wright echoed Duncanson’s remarks and said that it is an intimate moment when an athlete becomes injured and a trainer helps the athlete deal with that.
“A lot of an athlete’s identity is wrapped up in their sport,” Wright said. “When they get injured to the point where they have to sit out of their sport for a while, it can take a lot of emotions that the athlete has to deal with and you get to be a part of that process.”
The most challenging part of being an athletic trainer is having to tell someone that their season or athletic career is over, Duncanson said.
She said that she would rather be the one to tell the athlete that, however, than a doctor who does not have a personal connection with the athlete.
It is also difficult to tell the coaches about an athlete’s season or athletic career being over, according to Duncanson.
“For them, it hurts job-wise, but we have such awesome coaches that it actually hurts their hearts, too, because they know that person is going to be crushed,” Duncanson said.
Duncanson said that another favorite aspect of her job is getting the opportunity to make an impact in the life of college students.
“They’re like my little sons,” Duncanson said. “I love them.”
Wright said that she has been with sports medicine for two years. She is the team leader for the swim and dive teams on the support staff for the football team, and works in the training room.
In her role as team leader for swim and dive, Wright manages the student workers who also work with the swim and dive team.
Wright said that the student trainers provide a mentoring spirit, while providing medical treatment and care that hopefully uplifts the athletes.
Most of the injuries with the swim and dive teams are chronic, according to Wright.
“They’re doing the same motion, so they will have a lot of chronic shoulder injuries and a few lower back injuries that we usually have to do maintenance on,” Wright said.
Football features more acute injuries, Wright said. This includes taping and lymph pathogen awareness.
“I work with massage, heating and icing,” Wright said. “I help assist their rehab programs and check in on the status in their injuries all under the supervision of an athletic trainer.”
Much like Duncanson, Wright’s favorite part of the job is being alongside the student athletes throughout the season where she gets to see their character develop.
Wright said the most difficult part of her job is attempting to keep the integrity to provide the level of care necessary.
Senior student trainer Berkeley Fortune is a team director and responsible for half of the teams on campus.
She said that she visits with all of the teams to talk to the student workers for each team to make sure that everything is going smoothly. She also helps train all freshmen and new hires.
Fortune said that student trainers are essentially like team moms.
“We provide care for student athletes not only in the physical way, but also in the spiritual, social and emotional way,” Fortune said.
When student athletes come in for treatment, they typically have many other things going on in life, according to Fortune.
“It’s awesome to be a resource for them so that they can talk about whatever they are feeling or get anything out that they need to get out and go forward and have a good practice,” Fortune said.
This is also the most difficult part of the job, according to Fortune.
“It’s awesome, but sometimes it’s hard when you can’t fix their problems and it’s hard to bear that burden that they sometimes have,” Fortune said.
Fortune’s favorite part of her job is that it allows her to give back to the college. She also loves having the chance to work with student athletes because she was once an athlete herself.
Fortune said it is great to have a tie to athletics, but in a way that will help her with her career in the future.
Junior student trainer Lauren Swink works with the football team and does a lot of paperwork regarding physician visits when the student athletes go to clinic.
With football, Swink said that she does a lot of preparing athletes before practice and games, including taping and massage/heat.
“We’re really out there to watch the team during practices and games and be there in emergency situations if anything was to happen,” Swink said.
After practice, the sports medicine team takes care of any injuries and does massages and ice bags again.
Swink’s job on the paperwork side is very different from her job on the field.
“I do a lot of insurance for the athletic trainers, so I do a lot of the claim forms and everything that goes through with insurance and working on different claims that arise,” Swink said. “I also help athletes deal with situations when insurance doesn’t take care of things.”
Swink said that insurance is a very tricky situation because people often do not know which insurance plan to pick and what their plan covers due to a lack of available information.
She said it is difficult when an athlete is expecting their insurance to cover an injury, but they find out that they have to pay out pocket.
Not all parts of Swink’s job are as upsetting as that, however.
Swink said the best part of her job is getting to do many behind-the-scenes jobs that help take pressure off the athletic trainers who work so much with the athletes already.
“It’s not the most exciting job if you were to look at it on paper, but it’s very rewarding at the end of the day,” Swink said. “I have learned so much job experience already from it.”