Viva Loudoun Intern
(Oct. 4, 2013) – Whether at a weekday practice or under the lights on Friday night, football athletic trainers can be as important as the coaches on the field. These health care providers specialize in preventing, assessing, treating, and rehabilitating injuries and illnesses so that players are safe and able to play at their full potential.
Simply put, football is a contact sport; according to the American Journal of Sports Medicine 500,000 football injuries occur every year, racking in twice as many as any other sport. Although 67 percent of all football injuries are sprains and strains, the risk of having a concussion according to the Sports Concussion Institute is a 75 percent chance every time a player steps on the field.
Because of these inherent risks, having expert athletic trainers on staff is a key part of any football program, and a solid athletic training program is the epitome of the Stone Bridge Bulldogs.
“My job as an athletic trainer is to provide healthcare for the athletes, I determine the scale of the injury and when the player can return to practice,” Stone Bridge athletic trainer Mark Wagner said.
Wagner or “Wags” has been an integral part of the Bulldog athletic program for years, providing care for all athletes no matter how little or extreme the injury.
To qualify to be an athletic trainer, like Wagner, one has to have a bachelors and master’s degree in athletic training and pass a certification exam provided by the Board of Certification. Once certified, trainers have to keep up their knowledge and application with 25 required CEUs, or continuing education units, per year.
“The CEUs are important because they make sure athletic trainers are constantly learning,” Wagner said.
Wagner gets hands on experience with the players 24/7 by covering the Bulldog practices and home games.
“The most common injury is sprains and strains, but because football is a collision sport so the risk for concussions is significantly higher,” Wagner said.
If a player experiences a concussion, it’s the athletic trainer’s job to provide care until the EMS arrives.
“When a player is knocked unconscious we treat it as a spinal cord injury,” Wagner said. “We treat the player as if he suffered the worst injury and hope for the best.”
The student athletic trainers aid Wagner by providing water, supplies, and assisting when an injury occurs.
“The student athletic trainers aren’t allowed to do hands-on work but they can help me of if there is a problem,” Wagner said.
The Stone Bridge student athletic trainer team this year consists of Becca and Kayla Pellets, Shelby Stewardson, Ally Sharpe, Delaney O’Brien, Jada McFadden, Jada Cox, and Rachel Miller.
“I love being an athletic trainer because it’s my way of being a part of the team,” senior Pellets said.
The student trainers are the behind the scenes workforce for the team, they help set up each practice and game by filling waters, bringing the gear on and off of the field, and providing ice the players whenever a minor injury occurs.
“My favorite part is being on the sidelines,” junior O’Brien said. “You get to see what’s going on and hear the coaches and guys.”
The trainers have the inside look of what the team is like on the sidelines and on the practice field.
“The games are exciting because we get to be a part of something not many people are a part of like the halftime and pre-game rituals,” senior Stewardson said.
With their insider perch, the student trainers get to view every injury up close: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
“One time at a game a kid got knocked unconscious and woke up dazed and screaming,” Stewardson said. “It was scary to watch someone in that much pain.”
With being a trainer comes responsibility, because the game is so fast the trainers have to constantly be aware and ready to help.
“The hardest thing we have to do as trainers is be able to think on our toes, we have to be prepared for everything,” Pellets said.
Although athletic trainers are constantly dealing with injuries, they are also rewarded with their role in prevention of injuries and their role in returning athletes to the field.
“The most rewarding thing about being a trainer is working with the athletes, it’s nice to see the athletes recover from and injury and come back on the field,” Wagner said.