By Jonathan Mizger/Sports Information Staff
The National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA) has designated the month of March as National Athletic Training Month.
The theme of the second annual NATA month is Every Body Needs an Athletic Trainer. From the NATA toolkit, the goal is "to continue to reach those individuals and organizations that can help make a difference for athletic trainers when it comes to legislation, employment and public health."
At right: Athletic trainer Julie Alexander works recently with baseball catcher Ben Richards, who is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. (Daniela Marchitto photo)
Promoting the awareness of athletic training to people who do not know what athletic trainers do is a key goal that the NATA looks to achieve. Educating people of the importance of athletic trainers and establishing relationships between student-athletes and athletic trainers are things to consider in promoting the awareness.
Eastern Connecticut State University has athletic trainers who work hard without needing any recognition or high praise. The athletic trainers at Eastern are people who are helpful to the student-athletes and make sure each are cleared to play based on the guidelines on handling a specific injury.
Below (from left): Eastern athletic trainers Julie Alexander, Stevie Clines, Tom Holton, Jarrett Sorge.
Athletic trainer Julie Alexander, who graduated from Eastern with a B.S. in Psychology and went on to earn a M.S. in Athletic Training at Old Dominion University, expressed her feelings on the importance of this month and beyond.
"I think that we will carry out our day-to-day functions the same way we always have," said Alexander. "Any athlete that comes in with an illness or an injury that's athletically-related, we care for the same way regardless of whether it's March, April, May, August or September. I think this month of March is more to promote the field of athletic training to people who don't understand what it is that we do. A lot of people think athletic trainer, they think personal trainer, a strength coach, and while we do have some function in teaching strength and conditioning and techniques, we're also on the field emergency care, injury evaluation, treatment rehabilitation, returning to play concussion management, the list goes on and on."
Alexander, who was hired at her alma mater this past summer after many years at Division I Sacred Heart University, has been proud of helping out the people she has met in her field.
"After 20 plus years, I can tell you that anytime we have an injured athlete, the best day is the day that they return to their field of play," said Alexander. "That is probably the most exciting thing about what we do, especially if it's an athlete that's been injured, had surgical interventions, has gone through post surgical rehabilitation in our room; returning to play is those days I look forward to. I enjoy every day but those are the days that are special."
As there are upsides, there are downsides for being an athletic trainer. Athletic trainer Tom Holton, who earned a B.S. in Physical Education from Eastern and an M.S.S. in Sports Medicine from the U.S. Sports Academy, noted that he loves his job but dislikes when he lets the student-athlete know the bad news.
"I love doing my job it's just part of the job you hate saying 'you can't play'," said Holton. "I really wish I could come into work every day and not have to do that.. The reality of the fact is that there's people we have to hold out and tell them 'you're season's over, you got to have surgery' and deal with the emotions of that athlete and how they're going to handle 'my career is over'."
Holton, a staff member since 1999, noted how being able to get the student-athlete to get back in his or her field of play and watching him or her succeed is one of his proudest moments as an athletic trainer.
Eastern director of athletics Dr. Jeff Konin, another Eastern alum, has been an athletic trainer and a physical therapist. Konin mentioned how the importance of athletic trainers is not just for the collegiate level, but for all levels of competition.
"The purpose is to bring awareness to the general public, to bring awareness to the public of the importance of athletic trainers and the injury prevention care of the numerous student-athletes that participate in sports in all levels," said Konin. "At the high school level, less than 50 percent of high schools have an athletic trainer, and when every high school has programs but less than half of them have proper ways to care for the kids, that's why an awareness month is there to inform people of what they should be doing to provide appropriate programs. You wouldn't put them out there if you didn't have the fields, you wouldn't put them out there if you didn't have the coaches and you really shouldn't put them out there if you don't have the appropriate medical care for them."
As the spring season is starting to get into full-swing, so are the athletic trainers at Eastern working hard to make sure every student-athlete is evaluated and cleared to play. The month of March will be busy at Eastern with lacrosse, baseball, softball, and track & field. The Eastern athletic trainers will be the unsung heroes in helping our student-athletes, not only during national NATA month, but every month of the academic year.
"I have the best job in the world," said Alexander. "In this job, you don't sit behind a desk or do the same thing every day . Every day is different , and you get to work with amazing people who you want to see get better when they get injured.. What's better than that?"