Trainers' Job Includes Keeping People Sane

December 15, 1991|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,Contributing sports writer

He usually is a short guy with a paunch and a gravelly voice.

More often than not, he is in desperate need of a shave.

Also, he often sits around chewing on a cheap cigar and is expertat taping the hands and ankles of a fighter.

That is the image most people have of a trainer. But that person is not an athletic trainer.

"I think the times have changed," said Paul Welliver, program director at the Carroll County Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Center.

"Sports medicine has become this big fad. There's been a lot of breakthroughs in the nine years I've been practicing."

All fivecounty high schools have trainers or those with training knowledge working with their teams.

They are there to provide first aid and treat injuries, take some pressure off coaches and ease the worry of parents whose children are out on the field.

The trainers' jobs, onpaper, are fairly straightforward.

On a good night, the trainer may stand around through four quarters or two halves simply watching the game or chatting with those along the sidelines. He or she usuallyis inconspicuous.

Then, there are the bad nights. That's when therunning back turns an ankle on one play, and the left tackle limps off two plays later. A little later, the defensive back pulls something in his side.

The entire time, of course, the trainer runs back and forth among all, trying to treat them and, above all, keep everyone sane.

Despite knowing what an athletic trainer's basic job is, people are still learning what an athletic trainer really does.

Welliver, the former head athletic trainer at Western Maryland College for six years, likes to use the boxing analogy to illustrate how people don't always know what an athletic trainer is and what he or she does.

Ann Spencer, who works with the Francis Scott Key High teams, said a trainer's job is to prevent injuries, evaluate problems and work out a rehabilitation program.

Trainers, though, are limited in what they can do. They are not doctors. They cannot diagnose, and they cannot overrule a doctor's restrictions.

They can ice down an injured hand and recommend a player not return to the game. They can fit players for crutches and immobilize a knee.

Also, when working at the high schools, they need to gain the trust of the coaches and the athletes.

"A lot of people don't understand what a trainer is and what they're there for," said Spencer. "I think there is a need forhigh school athletic trainers."

Spencer also said theories in thefield are changing. Several years ago, "take time off to let it heal" was the popular prescription.

With an athletic trainer, though, it is a different story. Spencer said the athletic trainer now treatsthe injury more aggressively, often using some form of rehabilitation.

Welliver, who is certified by the National Athletic Trainers Association and who just completed a two-week stint with the WashingtonBullets in training camp at Mount St. Mary's College, said that the role of the trainer has changed drastically.

"I think the role of the athletic trainer has (shifted) from a reactionary position to a preventive position," said Welliver, who works with the Westminster teams. "There (is interest) in nutrition, conditioning, weight-trainingregimens, too."

Charlene Morazzani, who works with North Carroll's athletes, said the field is fairly new and growing, and she said greater awareness will lead to a greater demand for trainers.

"What you're doing is preventive medicine," she said.

And that is just another way the job is changing. Morazzani said that as more and more is being learned about the profession, the person doing the job learns and changes.

Coaches are starting to have a heightened interest in having trainers around. Using football as an example, when a coachis trying to keep a game plan straight in his head, having a trainerto keep him informed about injuries and whether a player can go or not is one less thing to worry about.

"I think a lot of coaches areasking for it," said Welliver.

And they may get it in Carroll County. Welliver is now the lone certified trainer in the county. Spencer, Morazzani and Emma Cable, who works with South Carroll High athletes, all are up for official certification within the next few weeks.

With Bob Burger working at Liberty High, this is the second year in a row all five Carroll County high schools have trainer personnel. Supplying trainers is a yearly chore that requires advertising and networking.

One sure thing is that people are starting to realize that an athletic trainer does more than just tape ankles.

Some people are tough converts, though. Morazzani said one friend thought the job meant being an aerobics teacher.

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