Thursday, March 28, 2013

Having a Positive Impact as an Athletic Trainer

In an effort to keep things fresh a reach as many readers as possible A4IA will be having a guest blogger this week.  Mike Carroll, Head Athletic Trainer and Assistant Athletic Director at Stephenville High School (TX) has taken the time to write about his experiences and perspective as an athletic trainer at the secondary level.  Feel free to connect directly with Mike regarding your thoughts on his blog.  Thank you Mike for taking the time to contribute to A4IA's blog:

Regardless of their chosen profession a person wants to know that they are doing a good job and are appreciated.  When I got into athletic training over two decades ago I knew that I was not going to be told that I was doing a good job on a regular basis.  I also knew I wasn’t going to get rich (financially).  What I did know was that I would have to work hard.  Even if no one told me that I was doing a good job I would know I was from what I observed from my student athletes and colleagues.  Does that mean that I don’t want or need people to give me that affirmation?  Absolutely not.  It just means that I didn’t then and I don’t now crave public affirmation of how good I was or am at providing health care services. 

Fast forward from when I emerged from graduate school as a young idealistic, energetic, secondary school athletic trainer to today.  Today I am more businesslike in my approach to my job and in reality is a much better athletic trainer today than I was when I first started. Twenty plus years ago things that I could have never envisioned when I first started are now aspects of being a secondary school athletic trainer that I do not particularly enjoy (unbelievable increases in paperwork comes to mind initially).  At the end of the day, however, being a secondary school athletic trainer is about providing athletic training services to the student athletes at my high school so that they can participate in a safe fashion.  Yes, there are aspects of my job that are unappealing but I still do what I do because I love being an athletic trainer and I love working with this age group.  This brings me back to my original topic of appreciation.

Those of you who are reading this who are athletic trainers in the secondary school setting may nod your head or you may disagree completely, but there are times during the school year where the mentality feels like it is the athletic training room versus the world.  The kids don’t seem to understand the importance of what you are asking them to do.  The coaches are demanding and do not seem to want the star athlete to have the time to adequately recuperate from an injury.  The parents don’t understand that the injury that their child has, such as a concussion, could have negative long term consequences if not treated appropriately.  Some parents just want their kid to play in the big game.  This may go on for days or weeks at a time.  What can we as the athletic trainer do about this? The short answer is you keep on keeping on.  You do your job to the best of your ability and you keep the kids at your school safe.  Trust me.  There are times where it seems like no one appreciates what you are doing and why you are doing it.  The good thing is that couldn’t be further from the truth.

In the past couple of weeks I had two separate parents who renewed my love for this setting and why I work with this age group.  Without violating any privacy laws I will just say that I had one young person with a chronic injury that I helped get well and they returned to play the sport that they love.  With this kid I did it by realizing my limitations and referring them to a health care professional who could better treat the reason for their chronic injuries.  Both of the kid’s parents came up to me in separate conversations and thanked me for everything that I did for their child.  They both said in effect that it was refreshing that someone cared about their child as a person and not just as a good athlete and wanted them to have no lingering long term problems.  The second one was another student athlete that had a concussion that was not initially diagnosed by an ER doctor after an auto accident.  I did what I would have done had they suffered this injury in athletics, which is take them through our district approved concussion protocol.  This particular student is a senior and their team was about to enter the playoffs.  With some kids it wouldn’t be unexpected if the parents would want to overlook this injury just to give their kid one last chance at glory.  This wasn’t the case.  The mother of the child was completely supportive of what I was doing and thanked me for caring so much about her kid that I was willing to do what I thought was right even though others wanted to overlook the injury.  She also told her child this and they then relayed the information to me and the other kids on the team before a game.  This mother said that she completely supported what I was doing and appreciated my dedication to her child and the other kids that are in athletics at my school.

So what is the take away from all of this?  If you are an athletic trainer know that you are appreciated and even though at times it seems like the entire world is against you and what you stand for, that is not the case.  It may not happen often, but you will have a parent, coach, athlete, or someone else tell you that you are indeed appreciated for everything that you do even though at times it seems quite the opposite.  When that conversation happens it puts a little more wind in your sails and keeps you going strong during the seemingly endless seasons of high school sports.  If you are a parent or an athlete and you have read this far I challenge you to go to the athletic trainer at your school and tell them that they are appreciated and that nothing is more important that the health of their child or themselves.

Thanks to Beth Mallon and Heather Clemons for giving me the opportunity to write for the Advocates for Injured Athletes Blog.  I look forward to contributing more in the future.


  1. Mike,
    Well said, I can relate as I am sure all SS AT's can!

    Larry Cooper, MS, LAT, ATC

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