Athletic Trainers Play a Key Role in Keeping Student-Athletes Healthy & Safe 

If it’s not a truism, it should be: if you’re going to have an athletic program, you better have an athletic trainer.  

That being said, a recent study finds about a third of public secondary schools have no athletic trainer to serve as the first line of defense in an emergency, putting student-athletes at risk.  

If you haven’t noticed, this time of year is the busy season for high school athletics. You can tell by the hustle and bustle in the gyms and practice fields, the energy and excitement of the participants and fans, the sheer number of games and meets that dominate the calendar.  

It’s also made obvious every weekday from 3:45-4:00 p.m., when classes have ended and student-athletes descend upon the training room to seek the help/advice/treatment/support/wisdom/camaraderie of their athletic trainer.  

That 15-minute stampede could easily overwhelm; however, with the same steady hand exhibited by your favorite classroom teacher, the athletic trainer establishes rapport and a sense of unity that is as immediate as it is remarkable.  

Following this brief but active period, there are practices and games to attend. Count on the high school athletic trainer – a highly specialized expert with a personal understanding of the student-athlete – to be where they need to be and do what they do to keep kids healthy and safe.  

As a provider of athletic training services to the Appleton Area School District and St. Mary Catholic High School, Advanced Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine takes pride in introducing their athletic trainers to you.  

They are dynamic, knowledgeable and confident, and their passion is unmistakable. 

In their own words

Appleton West’s Kayla Schneider

Kayla Schneider

I generally spend a portion of my time at West on communication with coaches, parents, athletes, and then am available immediately after school for injury evaluation, treatments, and rehabs as necessary, along with any taping, splinting, or bracing that needs to be done before athletes can participate.  

I follow that up with interactions with each of the teams and each of their coaches, giving them a rundown of who needs what depending on injury status. For athletes who are needing rehab modifications or practice modifications, we discuss how they’re feeling and then I send them to practice with what I expect them to do while they’re there.  

I’m available during practice times as well and do my best to get into the gyms so that people see my face for every practice time, being available onsite as much as I can be until I have to leave for an event to provide emergency coverage, injury evaluation and prevention.  

You have to offer yourself and others vast amounts of grace. Your kids are not going to accomplish everything you say exactly as you say it, but you need to understand that you’re not going to be able to get as much done as you want. And you have to be okay with that.  

The best part of my job is that you get to develop the neatest relationship with a really wide but very unique group of kids. 

Appleton East’s Liz Ostrowski

Liz Ostrowski

A high school athletic trainer is kind of a jack of all trades. You deal with kids not just getting hurt on the field; they’ll come into your training room and hang out if they’ve had a bad day. A lot of times they’ll come and just want to talk, right? So you’re kind of a little bit EMT, psychologist, etc.  

We have seniors and juniors that are helping some of their younger classmates, because there are a lot of similar injuries. So if you have three or four kids all doing ankle exercises and using Therabands, some of the upper class kids will step in and be like, ‘Oh, hang on, try and do this movement this way.’ So it’s really cool to see them helping their younger teammates.  

I’m always at school by 2:30 because that’s when eighth hour starts and a lot of the seniors have senior privileges so they might have a study hall or open hour there, so they’ll come in and do their rehab and then they get a little more one-on-one with me. Then I’m there until the final practice is done.  

A huge part of rehab that we deal with is getting kids confident after their injury. That’s the struggle. It’s not always physical. Sometimes it’s mental, because you’re pushing yourself to get to where you need to be, and sometimes it’s just not going as fast as you want. With injuries, especially the bigger ones, there’s a lot of ups and downs, and recovery is never really a straight trajectory. 

Appleton North’s Cassy Timmers

Cassy Timmers

Every day is different. Some days in the training room I’ll see a handful of kids, but more often I’ll see 20-30. It can get hectic pretty quick. You really have no idea what’s going to walk through the door. You just have to multitask.  

A lot of these kids are multi-sport athletes, so we see them throughout the year. You really get to know them. I’ll have kids who come in and ask questions about colleges and careers, or sometimes they just want to chat. This time is more than treatments and evaluations.  

Some people who become an athletic trainer have an injury story. Not me. I never ended up with a major injury. I was in three sports, an average but very coachable athlete. I didn’t have that natural talent; I just worked hard. But I knew that I wanted to be involved with sports, the medical field, so I had to find a way that I could marry those together.  

The best part is seeing kids succeed, whether that’s on the court, the field, in the classroom, or just in life or doing other things. It could be something injury-related, like coming back from an ACL tear, and they’ve missed 9-12 months of competitions and activities, and then you see them back on the field or court for the first time. That’s so rewarding. Or seeing them commit to different colleges or get into their dream school or whatever it may be. The most enjoyable part of my job is just their success.

St. Mary Catholic’s Ryan Johnson

Ryan Johnson

At St. Mary Catholic, I love that that the school population is smaller, and I can give a lot more one-on-one, individualized attention to each athlete. This is a school of just over 200 kids, and we have more than a hundred athletes.  

What I ’ve been working on, e specially this year, is a focus on preventative programs and helping the athletes take a more proactive approach to preparing for competition and avoiding injuries. I love that the soccer team does the FIFA 11 plus workout every day and this year I was able to get each volleyball player a band at the beginning of their season and talk with all levels about exercises that can prevent shoulder overuse injuries. We are also putting a heavy emphasis on post-practice and game stretches to help recovery.  

I love educating them on the health and nutritional aspects, making sure they understand about supplements or caffeine and the problems that can arise. I also talk to them about the mental health aspects of being an athlete. I am not always able to see it, but I can usually tell when someone is getting frustrated or they are getting down because of this cycle when rehabbing, and we work through that.  

We are trying to get them as functional as possible so they can return to their sport. They may not be 100 percent healthy, but there are steps in the evaluation process we go through to make sure it is safe to return. I’m always happy for them when we can get them back to doing what they love to do.

Scott Hutchinson

Scott Hutchinson

Scott Hutchinson is a writer and content creator for NOVO Health.

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