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The Effects of Athletic Training: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

As an Athletic Trainer, I have noticed that there are far reaching effects of how our profession effects lives. Now, I dont want to give anyone a God complex that we are masters of the universe by any means. I want explore the effect of the Athletic Trainer on the lives of the Athlete, the profession, and the programs they are sub-contracted to. So I'd like to share some of my experiencnes and some of my Athlete's stories.

A 20 year old baseball player ,a catcher, at a division 1 university complaining of bi-lateral hip/groin pain. He goes to see the Athletic Trainer. The evaluation led to the thought it was a "groin pull". The Athlete was given a self stretch routine and instructed how to use the ultrasound machine so they could give ultrasound to themself. The pain continues in this athetes groin/hip area with no decrease in symptoms. His thought process was to tell the Athletic Trainer hoping they would adjust the plan to the symptoms not decreasing. He was wrong, he was told to change the setting an location when providing ultrasound to himself. Weeks pass with no change, except for an increase in pain and decrease in ROM. The Athletic Trainer finally makes a referral to see a physician. With an X-ray it revealed the Athlete had developed bony spurs in his hip sockets that were wearing away at his cartilage that had gone misdiagnosed for the better part of a year so he required a double hip surgery. There are so many things wrong with how this athlete was treated if the Athletic Trainer just took the time to care for the athete the extent of damage may have been lessened

A 17 year old female highschool basketball player is 2 and a half months out from an ACL reconstruction. Is progressing well through her rehab protocol. She is doing well with Closed chain exercises however has not been cleared for open chain exercises. Her Athletic Trainer decides that she is far enough along to begin performing box jumps, but to keep it quiet and not tell her Physical Therapist or physician. While performing a box jump she tears her ACL again, requiring her to have the same surgery, losing a season and several opportuities to play basketball at the division 1 level. This athlete had already suffered one ACL tear and the Athletic Trainer that thought they "knew better" and caused this athlete to endure another ACL tear , another surgery, and a longer rehab.

A young man approached me one day, saying "hey are you an Athletic Trainer?" , I let him know who I was. He tells me that during his first hockey game he suffered a hard hit to the head. He didn't reemember what happened, skated off the ice and went to the bench. The EMT on site said he doesn't know how to check for concussions so he gave him an aleve and said that will help with his headache. He went back on the ice and felt slow and fuzzy and not more than a period later he suffered another blow to the head. Hi headache and nausea increased and took himself out of the game. I evauate him and as I am going through his history with this team. He has suffered two orbital fractures, 1 maxilla fracture, and has reported difficulty sleeping loss of sensation to his face ever since these injuries. I jokingly ask, "how did you even pass the physical for this team?" he retorted, "What physical?". So now he is in the process of seeing a specialist because potentially this athlete may have suffered multiple undiagnosed concussions and is suffering from long lasting potentialy permanent effects. Because no one was there to be this athletes advocate or educate them on how to properly address his injuries. Because of this I am now doing a complete overhaul on concussion management, injury prevention, and injury protocol for this team. Now the athletes will have the opportunity to play in a safer environment.

Several years ago a gymnast came to me and asked me to look at her knee. She was at a competition and while on trampoline she landed funny and her knee was swollen. She went to a physician and was told her ACL was perfectly fine and intact. The athlete didn't agree with this diagnosis because her knee was still very swolle and felt "weird". As I go through my evaluation I notice she has no end feel during both a Lochman's and an Anterior Drawer. I reluctantly tell her that I believe she has torn her ACL and she needs to get a second opinion. I see this look of disbelief and dissapointment on her face. I ask her, "whats wrong?", and she replies "I have the Olympic trials in a little over 6 months". I reassure her that everything is going to be alright. Before she left I made the appropriate calls for her to get a second opinion. Sure enough the MRI revealed an ACL tear. Within 48 hours of her surgery we began the process of getting her back to competition. She saw me 5 days a week and went to a physical therapy clinic where she worked with a fellow Athletic Trainer for 6 months. The day came and she was cleared. She competed at the Olympic Trials and missed a spot by only one place, which is an accomplishment in and of itself. Later that same year she represented team USA at the National Championships where she won a gold medal.

I saw this story years ago and I always thought it was a nice one so enjoy!

If those of you reading this have any stories bad,ugly, GOOD please share them so that others can read and share their stories as well.


  • These are some fascinating stories! Definitely some cringe-worthy ones in there. I'm sure there is a lot that those professionals learned and what we can learn from their mistakes. I think the most alarming part I'm taking away from this thread is that an AT allowed an athlete to perform the modality on themselves nonetheless.
  • I agree! I was surprised especialy because he came from a division 1 university where you would think they would have the cream of the crop and the highest quality of care possible. Do you have any stories of how Athletic Trainers have impacted athletes and programs in a positive or negative way because of their actions or inactions?
    Audric Warren MS, ATC, CAFS, NASM-PES, NASM-CES
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