With four children in school sports, Toni O'Rourke knows injuries can happen. That's why she's glad Lake Regional Athletic Trainer Kaelin Hood is at practices and games.
"I think that I would be a nervous mess if Kaelin wasn't at our school taking care of my kids," O'Rourke said. "She is a great trainer and very compassionate with the kids."
March is National Athletic Training Month, a time to recognize these health care professionals who specialize in preventing, assessing and treating injuries. Athletic trainers also administer first aid and emergency care. Unlike personal trainers, who may or may not have higher education, athletic trainers must earn a bachelor's degree in athletic training, as well as board certification and state licensure.
Hood is one of three Lake Regional athletic trainers who cover practices and games for local schools: Hood serves Morgan County R-II, Joshua Lammert serves Camdenton R-III and Zach Greco serves School of the Osage. Lake Regional Orthopedics and Sports Medicine provides the services of all three at no cost to the schools.
Making Sports Safer
Athletic trainers use several strategies to minimize student injuries. To start, they provide education to coaching staff and athletes on such topics as heat illness, proper bracing and concussion prevention. They also arrive at games and practices early and help the athletes take preventive measures, such as stretching and proper taping. Then, during the practice or game, the athletic trainers keep a close watch on the athletes, including those on the opposing team. If the trainers see or suspect an injury, they assess the athlete and, if necessary, start treatment.
All four of O'Rourke's children benefitted from Hood's care. Her son, 17-year-old Wyatt Espinosa, plays football, basketball, baseball and track and has a tendency to roll his ankles.
"Kaelin was always prepared to wrap and be sure he was ready to play again," O'Rourke said. "If he did not pass Kaelin's physical, he did not get to go back in. Kaelin always made him ice after the game, whether he thought that he needed it or not."
In Camdenton, senior Joshua Semau said he is thankful Lammert was there to help him with sore knees, an injured shoulder, a broken hand and one really bad ankle sprain, which happened just about a week before the first game of the season.
"I was in severe pain, but Josh was immediately there to take care of me," Semau said. "With his help, I played the first game and didn't miss a game all season. … The amount of trust I had in him, I honestly believe, helped me recover faster."
At School of the Osage, junior Grace Faulkner credits Greco with making it possible for her to continue in softball despite a hip injury.
"Zach designed a plan that incorporated sport-specific exercises to help with the movements I had to be able to do when playing," she said. "He has helped to make sure that I am always at my best and can play at my highest potential."
Faulkner's mother, Kelly Bryner, added that Grace "eats, breathes and sleeps softball. When she thought that she would have to stop playing the game that she loved, she was devastated. Zach provided encouragement.
"As a parent, the athletic trainer provides peace of mind," Bryner continued. "Parents can't be there all the times that their athletes are practicing or competing, but they know that someone is always available in case there is an injury or an emergency. Coaches and athletes work very hard, and they deserve to have resources available to them to help the team perform at their highest potential at all times."
Semau's mother, Jill Semau, gave a similar report about Lammert's presence at practices and games.
"If my son gets injured and is lying on the field, of course my heart beats double-time and I worry," she said. "But knowing he has Josh beside him checking him out keeps me in the stands versus running down onto the field."
All of the parents and students interviewed agree that it would be very hard to go back to not having athletic trainers available, and they are grateful that Lake Regional Orthopedics and Sports Medicine provides this care at no cost to the schools.
"Our kids look to the athletic trainers — just knowing they are there helps them play harder and give their all," Jill Semau said. "I've seen Josh reach out to the players, giving them a pat on the back, encouragement, asking if they need anything. That means so much to an athlete and to the parent in the stands observing."
For more information on Lake Regional Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, visit www.lakeregional.com/sportsmedicine.
Where You'll See Lake Regional Athletic Trainers
Lake Regional Athletic Trainers Kaelin Hood, Zach Greco and Josh Lammert cover the following sports at Camdenton R-III, Morgan County R-II and School of the Osage.
Tennis (not in Versailles)
Soccer (not in Versailles)