You have to be ready to go from standing perfectly still enjoying a sporting event to emergency mode in a moment’s notice. While athletic trainers are not trained to deal specifically with a global pandemic, we are trained to deal with emergent issues and how to mobilize and take action.
From there, we had to determine a few things. How do we get accurate information to the students? How do we prepare them to travel for their spring trips? And, by the end of the week, how do we keep them safe traveling home?
Since then, we’ve had to answer more questions. Learning to be an athletic trainer, at home, without athletes, certainly has been an adjustment.
Our new normal consists of checking our emails daily from home to see if our athletes need anything; sending out home exercise programs to the athletes whose rehabs for injuries were cut short; and communicating to them that we are still here, even from afar, if they need us.
We have had to learn to be what I call an armchair athletic trainer by trying to assess an issue that comes up on an athlete several hundred miles away. We recognize that ours may be the only medical advice they can receive due to the closure of nonessential medical services, but how do we assess that accurately and recommend the best course of action? This is what we are prepared to do.
Athletic trainers are chameleons. You can find us adapting in a multitude of situations and workplaces, from the traditional setting of the sidelines in middle school through professional sports, to military and clinical settings, working in administrative roles, even working in the role of information technology to help develop and train athletic trainers to use new services for documentation and injury care apps. For anyone familiar with our profession, it should come as no surprise that we are able to adapt easily to these new changes.
Most athletic trainers I know will tell you the most rewarding part of their job is that day-to-day contact with their athletes, the bonds that are formed and seeing them through from day one of an injury to their full return to play. Being sent home and taken away from our athletes has been the most difficult adjustment.
As a staff, we have been working on ways to stay engaged with our athletes. From contacting them to check in to sharing funny TikTok videos we made for them, we make sure to stay connected. While we are the experts in the physical part of medicine, we also understand that we are a bridge to helping the athletes mentally, whether it’s being a sounding board for them, a support system, or helping them find and access resources such as counseling services.
Student-athletes are under a lot of stress and pressure normally, but now we have taken their routine, something athletes (and athletic trainers) thrive on, and thrown them into a new situation while there’s a constant white noise of stress in the background that is COVID-19.
Any little thing we can do to help them cope or even just make them smile for a few minutes in their day, we will do.