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Behind the Scenes of March Madness with an Athletic Trainer

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It’s the hap, happiest time of the year. No, not Christmas, although that one’s good too! It’s NCAA tournament time! A time when Cinderella’s find their shoes, champions rise to the occasion, and every team, fan, and bracket hope for their one shining moment. From the coaches and players to the fans, the NCAA tournament is a stressful, but exciting time for everyone associated with the teams.

One individual that has a considerable stake in the game is each team’s Athletic Trainer (AT). I was blessed to be that guy for six years and six NCAA tournaments. The challenge of the tourney is for the team to play its best basketball at this time of year and the Athletic Trainer plays a large role in achieving this goal. All season long the team’s AT has been working to keep the players as healthy and productive as possible. At this time of year every game is win or the season is over. With that added pressure, the AT, in conjunction with the team physician, will do everything in his or her power to have their players available to play at the highest level possible.

Behind the Scenes of March Madness with an Athletic TrainerThe AT faces the most pressure when a player is battling or sustains an injury at this time of year. Injuries at the extremes of severity are fairly straight forward for the experienced AT.  With serious injuries like a torn ACL or broken bone, the player is unable to play and the AT will work on their rehab, getting them ready for next year and keeping them involved as a positive member of the team. With minor injuries like Grade I ankle sprains, jammed fingers, and bruises, the AT will utilize his or her treatment and rehab skills along with specialized taping and bracing to get the players back on the court, as soon as possible. The challenging cases are those that are in the middle of that injury severity continuum. Injuries like shoulder sprains, knee sprains, and wrist sprains tend to fall into this middle zone. The AT utilizes every test and bit of information they can to make the most objective decision regarding return-to-play. Playing into that decision are the:

  • Athletes ability to protect themselves from further injury
  • The athletes mindset regarding return to play
  • The chance of the injury becoming worse or more long term
  • The bracing, taping, splinting, or casting available to allow the athlete to be protected but productive

Ultimately the AT has to do what is in the best interest for the long term health of the athlete regardless of what effect on the team’s chances of advancing.

The majority of AT’s love being a member of the team and are extremely competitive people themselves. That competitive drive helps AT’s push athletes to get better and get back into the game quickly. However, it’s the strong education and ethical background that helps them make the best decisions regarding when it’s safe and not safe to return an athlete to the court, even at tournament time.

The advanced skills utilized by the AT’s in the NCAA tournament are the same skills you can count on in all of Athletico’s highly skilled AT’s. Athletico’s ATs can be found at all levels of competition and are here to support your pro, college, high school and youth athletes as well as any injury that you may sustain being an active individual.

Enjoy the tourney and contact your closest Athletico for a free complimentary injury screen by one of our Athletic Trainers or Physical Therapist’s if your victory celebration results in an injury.

About the author:
Jeffery Stein AT, PT is currently a clinician at the Westchester Athletico facility. Jeff worked for two years as the Team Physical Therapist for the Chicago White Sox and was the Men’s Basketball Athletic Trainer for six years with the Purdue Boilermakers. While with the Boilermakers, the team made the NCAA tournament six times making the Sweet 16 two times and the Elite 8 once.

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