Trainers tackle football injuries
Athletes appreciate encouragement, but shouting “go out there and break a leg” to a football player might not be the best idea, and the trainers know why. This fall the trainers have put at least 15 athletes on a long-term rehabilitation program, and the majority have been football players. Also, a handful of football players have had surgical cases.
“It hasn’t even been anything particular,” said injured sophomore John DeLeon, who tore his ACL and MCL. “There have been a lot of people who have hurt their knees, broken their ankles, broken their legs, broken arms, dislocated shoulders, feet, broken wrists, back injuries, hamstrings, pretty much everything there is. I can’t think of any thing there hasn’t been.”
At least a quarter of the team has been injured for some length of time this season, and even more have taken advantage of the services the trainers provide.
Rick Larsen, head athletic trainer, said, “We’re trained to do a wide variety of things that involve the prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation of injuries and we’re here to provide that service to any athletes that come into our facility.”
After playing collegiate baseball and graduating from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and Syracuse University, Larsen has been involved with WU athletics for 20 years. He was the head baseball coach and assistant trainer for five years until he became the head trainer and retired from coaching. Alongside Larsen are two assistant trainers, Molly MacDonald and Angie Dahl.
However, “its certainly a job for more than three people,” said Larsen. Therefore, they rely on about ten student trainers.
“They play a real vital role in what we do,” he said.
“We’ll have three of them at football practice every day, one of them at soccer practice. They also help us with coverage, setup, treatment and rehab. A lot of them are very skilled. We have a three-credit fundamentals of athletic training [course] that we teach in the spring and we get a lot of our student trainers out of that.”
The trainers’ room is regularly open on weekdays from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. and also when there are home competitions or additional practices scheduled. The trainers’ first priority is covering all the home events. A trainer also travels with the teams that tend to see more injuries. Usually Larsen makes every football game, MacDonald oversees soccer and Dahl covers volleyball.
Larsen said on a typical weekday, “We use the morning and the early afternoon for a clinical type of arrangement where the athletes come in for treatments and for rehabilitation and we have a chance to work one on one or more directly with them. Then the afternoon hours are more supervision-related. During the pre-practice we’re doing more of the taping, some treatments like heating and stretching, and getting the athlete ready to participate. Then there is more treatment afterward to limit the inflammatory response that seems to happen a lot so athletes come in to ice.”
With the 450 students participating in varsity athletics, and nearly all currently involved in some form of their season or pre-season the trainers have kept busy.
“In the clinical sense we probably see 20-25 people a day, ” said Larsen. “And with taping and post-practice type things we’re probably up to the 50 or 60 during the middle of the week. It’s a little unusual this year, and one of the tougher years since I’ve been here in terms of the severity of the injuries,” he said.
For the football team the long list of severe injuries even began even before the season officially began. During a scrimmage days before the first game, captain and senior running back Mike Mostardi dislocated his hip.
“We were running a screen play and my leg got caught underneath me,” said Mostardi. “It was kind of a freak accident, In trainer’s school I guess they just kind of brush over that like this doesn’t really happen. It only happens in severe car accidents. Luckily there was an orthopedic doctor on the site. He yanked on it a few times and luckily got it back into place. When the EMT’s came out of the ambulance and found out my leg had been reduced on the field they were horrified.”
The trainers have been helping Mostardi in his hopes that he’ll be able to play in the final game of the season on Nov. 3. The first two weeks they focused passive flexion and tension.
“Basically I just lay on my back and somebody would bend my knee up to 90 degrees or a little bit further, and I was supposed to just relax and let them do all the work,” Mostardi said.
For the past few weeks he has been able to use the stationary bike and the pool for aqua-jogging. This week he was allowed to begin jogging on land. He said the trainers also give him specifics of what not to do because otherwise he would likely try too much.
“They’ll come down to the pool with me to make sure that I’m doing all my exercises correctly and that I’m not jumping off the diving boards instead of doing water running,” he said. “They are always there and willing to do whatever they can do.
“It’s a hard position because they are dealing with a bunch of people who want to get back and play as soon as they can but ideally need time to heal and recover.”
Sophomore wide receiver Tory Meyr has spent the last nine weeks recovering as well. He tore his deltoid ligament and broke the fibula in his lower leg in practice just two days before the first game. Six days later he underwent surgery to have a metal plate and seven screws put in to hold his fibula together.
Meyr said, “I couldn’t move it myself until the bone had healed to a certain point so the trainers had to move it for me just to keep the muscles in my leg form having atrophy.”
After seven weeks on crutches, and then walking in his boot, he was cleared to walk this past Monday. Basically, his fibula has healed but the deltoid ligament should take a few more weeks.
“About when the season’s over I should be pretty good to go,” he said.
His teammate, linebacker junior Kevin Cherrick, was injured similarly in the season opener on Sept. 1. Cherrick said once the trainers came out on the field and touched a side of his leg, they could see and feel a bone pushing out just below the skin, and he knew he would be out the entire season. Having broke both his tibia and his fibula in his lower leg his fracture is a more serious injury.
He went into surgery immediately after Meyr to have a metal plate put in just above his ankle and two screws of two and a half inches to hold the two bones in place. The two also shared a hospital room that night. But unlike Meyr, he’ll also need a short surgery soon to have the screws removed. After suffering several unrelated injuries which have grown in severity each season, Cherrick said, “I see a progression here, so I’m expecting a successful senior year as long as I avoid breaking my neck or something that serious.”
Cherrick and Meyr said they got comments about their injuries all the time, especially when they travel around campus together, both on crutches.
Meyr said, “Because his is left leg and mines my right leg they’d say what did you do, kick each other? They were all really stupid comments.”
“People also like to ask us what the car looks like, so I guess they assume we were in a car accident together,” Cherrick said.
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