The life of athletic trainers, unwrapped

From Mickey and Rocky to Mr. Miyagi and Daniel to Obi-Wan and Luke, it’s clear: behind every great athlete, there lies a great trainer. This truth is no different at the College where, in a somewhat behind-the-scenes manner, highly compassionate and capable men and women work every day at protecting and caring for our Ephs prior to, during and after athletic competition.

Because athletic training is such a personal experience between a team and its respective trainer, it is reasonable to assume that many are unfamiliar with the profession and what it means to the student-athletes at the college. According to trainer Rodd Lanoue, athletic trainers are responsible for injury prevention (taping, bracing, sport-specific strengthening, field and weather conditions and hydration), injury care and immediate emergency care, evaluation of athletic injuries and rehabilitation of injuries. These services are the basic and overarching responsibilities of athletic training, but working with college students often brings unforeseen circumstances so that the day-to-day work of an athletic trainer is never the same.

“Our hours are not typical nine to five, Monday through Friday,” said trainer Yasmin Wilkinson. “We work when the teams are practicing. Therefore, we work some mornings, some afternoons and some evenings. We work weekends. We travel on the buses to various competitions with the teams. I don’t know that there is a typical day because you never know what student-athletes or injuries will be coming in.”

Lindsay Millert ’09, co-captain of women’s basketball, emphasized how much trainers – and specifically the women’s basketball trainer Lanoue – actually do on any given day. “The trainers help protect us from injury on a daily basis by providing those of us who need extra medical attention with stretching, ankle, knee or wrist taping, heating, therapy exercises and more,” she said. “All of these things are just precursors to daily practice and can take between 15 minutes and an hour per athlete. When we prepare for games, the trainers often show up two hours early just to make sure everything is set on the court and for the athletes.”

All varsity and junior-varsity student-athletes, according to Lanoue, can receive athletic training services, but contact and collision sports are monitored more closely. Teams with a high statistical probability of injury, such as football, soccer, field hockey, ice hockey, wrestling, basketball, baseball, softball and lacrosse, are assigned a specific athletic trainer. Lanoue also added that although all sports have inherent dangers, the trainers can become spread thin with 32 varsity sports, and that’s where statistical probability is useful in the distribution of trainers between sports.

Even if there are no typical days in being a trainer there are certainly typical tasks, and perhaps what makes these professionals so vital to student-athletes is that they often go above and beyond what their job descriptions read. “The trainers really put a lot of effort in their work,” said Patrick Moffit ’11, a quarterback on the football team. “I hurt my thumb right before our Amherst game this year, and they took every precaution to try and get it better for the game and had me on a schedule to put my hand in the whirlpool and ice it every day. I really think that made a difference and made me better off for that upcoming game – They work as hard as they can to help every single person who walks through the door with an injury.”

Women’s soccer co-captain Caitlin Colesanti ’09, whose team works with trainer Mike Frawley, emphasized just how much trainers can do to go the extra mile for their respective student-athletes. “The trainers make it a point to help any individual that asks for help,” she said, “whether that is coming in on a day off to help rehab, going to the hospital with a player or driving players to their MRI appointments. The trainers take a lot of time out of their personal lives in order to ensure the players get the attention and care that they need.”

Frawley, or “Frawls” as his student-athletes affectionately refer to him, has been invaluable in ensuring the safety of those assigned to his care. Last year when men’s basketball traveled to New York for an away game, one of the players had a seizure and went into shock. Frawley and several players kept him safe through the attacks, which according to Millert lasted about 15 minutes, until medical help arrived. Instances like these are unforeseen when traveling with a team, and often the nurturing instincts of the trainers can do as little as keep the team encouraged or as much as save a life.

“Frawls is always friendly, with a smile on his face and always available to help or give advice on an injury or ache or pain,” Kathryn Stephens ’10, a women’s lacrosse player, said. “He’s more than just our trainer – he’s our cheerleader, team parent and support system all rolled into one.”
While obviously beneficial for the student-athletes, being an athletic trainer is a highly rewarding profession in and of itself.

“Athletic trainers and student-athletes form tight bonds because the athletic trainer is often the first person there when there is an emergency situation,” Wilkinson said. “We are trained to manage many emergency situations until EMS arrives or stabilize individuals to a point where EMS is not needed – depending upon the injury. We also are the people that help student-athletes through varying challenges of recovery. We have all encountered challenging and interesting situations.”

Lanoue reiterated Wilkinson’s description of how strong these bonds must be. “It’s important that we build strong relationships with our student-athletes, because they are asked to put a lot of trust in us,” he said.