“What Is A Sports Trainer And What Does He Do?”

By Lynette Norris
Greene Publishing, Inc.
That’s a good question,” said Jake Pfeil, head trainer for the FSU Seminole Athletic Department. Pfiel, a graduate of Madison County High School who has also worked with the MCHS football and baseball teams before landing at FSU as the Associate Director of Sports Medicine, was the guest speaker at the Rotary Club of Madison, describing his role in the FSU athletic program. First of all, the proper term is “certified athletic trainer,” and it is a separate profession from “personal trainer.” It requires successful completion and graduation from a four-year program in certified sports medicine, including sitting for all required exams. To work in college sports, add a master’s degree to that list of requirements. While Pfeil was in school, he gained some needed experience working in Madison’s football and baseball programs. He also went the route of summer internships, including a summer with the Atlanta Falcons. “It was a great experience,” he said of that summer. He was able to go back for two more summers after that and even do an entire season with the team in 2002. While working toward his goal, he met his wife, who is also an athletic trainer. “We’re lucky to be in the same town, with offices about 20 yards apart (on the FSU campus),” he said. Still, a trainer’s day can be so busy that the two of them might not see each other all day, despite the close proximity of their workspaces. The sports training facility at FSU takes up 15,000 square feet and has 11 fulltime employees, along with a number of assistants and interns. Beyond the facility, there is a network of physicians, orthopedic surgeons, dentists and other health professionals who may be called on to treat a student athlete for any number of reasons. The facility takes care of about 130 football players, and 500 total student athletes. The general purpose of the facility and of sports medicine in general is the care, prevention and rehabilitation of athletic injuries, but it goes beyond that. Pfeil describes the facility as having all departments “working together as one unit to push kids in the right direction and get them where they need to be professionally someday.” That includes attention to their academics and nutrition, as well as the physical training. He also took issue with the “dumb jock” stereotype, saying that the student athletes he encountered were anything but. Athletic programs demand performance and the kids must keep up their grades in order to remain eligible, budgeting their time for classes, study, practice and play. “If it was easy, we all would’ve done it,” he said. “With these kids, the academic pressure is on.” The life of a trainer can be even more hectic. A typical day for Pfeil means rising at 6:30 a.m. and getting to the staff meeting with coach Jimbo Fisher at 7:30, where they go over the injury report and plan for the day. This is also when student athletes with any kind of illness or injury will come in. It is one of the first things they are taught when they come into the program – if they wake up feeling ill or out of sorts for any reason, they immediately go to the facility and see a doctor to get whatever they need in the way of bandages, medicine or other treatment; this must be taken care of first thing in the morning before their first class; if they are deemed too ill or their injury too great to allow them to attend practice, then their coaches will be notified not to expect them. Seek treatment at once, is the policy. Do not stay home and stay in bed without telling anyone. In the ongoing quest of prevention and keeping the students healthy and getting them back to a state of health when they are hurt or sick, there is also the ongoing task of scheduling necessary appointments with any needed healthcare professionals in the network that regularly works with the FSU athletic department, and seeing that the students get to those appointments. By 2:15 p.m., students are coming in to get ready for practice. This means getting taped up and suited up for the football players, and then getting them out on the field for a two-hour practice. 5:30 p.m. is the post-practice session, when any injuries are checked out and any ongoing treatments are administered. One might think that after the football season was over, things would settle down a bit, but this is actually one of the busiest times of the year for the athletic training department. This is the “clean-up time” when any season-long issues are addressed and any needed surgeries are scheduled. Prevention is also something the facility takes very seriously. All new recruits go through Pfiel and the team doctor. Physicals, medical histories and one-on-one interviews with each student help spot any red flags, such as a biological parent who died suddenly before age 45. Are there cardiac problems that run in the family? If the athlete has a heart attack and dies on the practice field during a hot day, it is a liability for the school, said Pfiel, but it’s also a heartbreaking loss for the family. “We even do

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