Thursday, October 7, 2010

Tale of the Tape: What I Do

October 7, 2010-

November will mark my 10-year anniversary as a Certified Athletic Trainer. In that time as well as the other 4 years I spent here as a Athletic Training Student, I've worked closely with almost every sport at TROY. I've seen a lot of injuries and illnesses and witnessed many more head scratching moments. I've been fortunate enough to travel all over the United States, its territories, and even across the Big Water, all in the name of Troy University Athletics! What an awesome job I have! But it's more than a job.

Most of these little moments go unnoticed, like scores tickering across the bottom of the screen of your favorite sports channel or internet screen on the weekend. Occasionally, TROY student-athletes have the chance to display their talents for a larger audience and gain national media attention. I've received my fair share of texts/morning after emails saying "I saw you on TV"...."Why are you standing so close to Coach Blakeney?"...and so on. I'm not going to lie: I kinda' like be a celebrity for a minute or two. But...I'd trade that small glimpse of me on the back of a cart for not ever having to go out on the field. Ever again.

I have one daughter. She's a gem. But I have inherited children. Lots of them. Some are big, some little; some really tan, some not so much; some nice, some mean as snakes; and some, well, all of the above. And because those are my children out there, I watch this game a little differently.

First of all, I watch from the waist-down. No, I'm not a perv...but most football injuries are lower body injuries: ankles, knees, hamstring, back and such.

I don't see faces, I see bodies. After each whistle, I count "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11...okay. Everybody's up." Then I laugh or clap or cheer or whatever other response is appropriate for the play that just finished. That repeats a couple hundred times a game.

My mind is like a security camera that continuously tapes over itself. I often relate it to security cameras always videoing the Wal-Mart parking lot. They don't sit there and watch all the film every hour of the day, but if something goes wrong, they review it to find out what happened. What you see happen can almost always lead you in the right direction to find what part is injured.

So, what happens if I don't get to 11 after each play? I usually stand a little closer to the white line and say "get up, get up, get up," inching out onto the field a little further with each breath. I know they can't hear me, but it's my timing mechanism. Otherwise, I'd race out there everytime, only to have them jump up in front of me. The referees don't like that and the coaches REALLY don't like it. You see, once medical attention is on the field in football, the player has to leave the game for at least a snap. That could be bad if they weren't injured and I reacted too quickly.

We educate our players to stay down if they're truly hurt. If they're just pouting, they need to do that while they're getting back on the line! If they're just pouting when we get there, they may be suddenly struck by a swift kick in the rear, therefore being injured and needing our help after all. This happens at practice, but usually not in games.

There are times when we see the injury instantly, know it's bad and get there to help before we're summoned on the field. I've had a few instances like that in my 10 short years. One such incident at North Texas in 2003. It was a potentially catastrophic knee injury. So bad the young man spent a week in Dallas and flew back to Troy with an external fixator on his lower leg. Face down, not moving athletes are deserving of quick sprints out there, too.

Tuesday night, late in the second quarter elicited just such a response for the medical team. I wasn't involved in the immediate on the field evaluation because I was attending to my kids on the defense bench. I actually didn't know anything had happened until I saw it on the big TV. The next image I saw was the blue splint bag being carried onto the field. NOT GOOD!

The next few minutes involved a finely-choreographed-but-never-before-performed dance of assessing the injury, getting the leg immobilized, arranging for a cart to take us to the ambulance and a fast ride to the Emergency Room of the brand-spanking new Middle Tennessee Medical Center.

We practice worst case scenarios, but when the dancers (players, staff, doctors) are different and you're in a different place, you never know how effectively the plan will be executed. This time it worked like a well-oiled machine. The students and staff can almost read each others' minds at this point in the year and the execution of our Emergency Action Plan went down without a hitch. Hopefully it looked that way on TV.

If you've ever smashed your finger or kicked the coffee table, I'm sure you yelled out. Sometimes it's a simple "OUCH!" and for some it may be more colorful! (I fall into the latter of the two in case you were wondering. ) The young man Tuesday didn't even say ouch one time. I shared some of his thoughts with Ricky Hazel when asked at the ER how he was doing and his answer was "Phillippians 4:4 - Rejoice in the Lord always." The key word in that sentence is always...I'm sure Jamie wouldn't mind me sharing these things with you, as he's truly an encouragement to me and all of the others here. I look forward to having my "son" back in Troy in the coming days to take care of him.

That's what I do.


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