HILLARY SMITH: Don't fear the training table

2013-12-08T21:00:00Z HILLARY SMITH: Don't fear the training tableHillary Smith Times Columnist nwitimes.com
December 08, 2013 9:00 pm  • 

Multiple conversations with high school, college and pro sports certified athletic trainers over the last three weeks has come up with one revelation: no one likes the doctor.

For sure, there is multiple levels to this concern, but it's one that surprisingly can start to cost players their careers.

The overall problem is several fold.

IU Northwest athletic trainer Audric Warren said that athletes first see the profession as the water boy. Because part of a trainer's job is to watch an athlete's overall health, when there is a lack of being able to assess if a player comes off the court or field with enough power to hold a conversation or drink a cup of water is enough for a primary assessment. It's actually vital to the first line of defense for a trainer.

The player sees a water boy.

"It's tough for young athletes to see what our role is," Warren said. "Nine times out of 10 they see us taping and getting water. They don't all see everything that goes on behind the scene, so why when you have an injury, would you go to the guy who gets the ice and water?"

Problem No. 2 is that pain sometimes means injury which means a spot on the bench.

No, the player hasn't been bad, but, yes, it turns out that recovery takes time. The body isn't a machine that can be fixed with a wrench. Just like a paper cut doesn't heal just by looking at it, the same with a sprained ankle, pulled muscle or even worse.

Another problem is simply that players are conditioned to believe that athleticism means pushing past the body's limits which means pain is OK.

Pain is not your friend.

"Some players think soreness, any kind of soreness, is normal," Warren said.

So they're told by a coach to ice their shins or ice their throbbing hand or elbow.

"Ice is not prevention," Warren said.

Which is ultimately the name of the game. Short of hiring a team doctor — which even pro teams with a doc on staff don't have the M.D. sit sideline of every game, that's why the athletic trainer is there — at the high school level, the trainer is prevention.

The idea of hiding a concussion makes the typical adult gasp, while a teenager will convince friends to tell coaches and staff that he or she looks fine on the court.

A player with a knee injury who thinks they can gut it out because he saw Derrick Rose sit for 18 months after ACL surgery thinks he can play through the pain with a couple of ibuprofen.

The reality is that good athletic trainers can watch a player on Day 1 and Day 50 and tell that he or she is favoring a leg, or an ankle or that his or her speech is slower.

Talking to a trainer is preventative, it can be career extending, not career suicide.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach her at hillary.smith@nwi.com.

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