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Athletic Training - A World of Adventure

By Paul LaDuke, ATC

I strongly believe there are 3 basic needs of man or woman - adventure, relationships and purpose. Athletic training provides avenues for all 3 of these basic needs, especially relationships and purpose. I often neglect to see the world of adventure within the profession. In February and March of 2015, I was blessed to have an adventurous month by being involved in 2 national championships, in 2 different sports, and in the Pennsylvania State Wrestling Championships.

For the past 14 years, I have been employed as an Athletic Trainer (AT) for a public school in Pennsylvania. In those 14 years, I have developed a love for the sport of Olympic weightlifting and started a weightlifting club at the school.

In February of 2015, one of the athletes I have been blessed to coach competed in the USA Weightlifting National Junior Championships at the Cox Convention Center in downtown Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. While I was there, I introduced myself to the sports medicine staff provided for the event. The staff consisted of an orthopedic surgeon, a chiropractor and an AT. They kept busy, tending to the needs of 330 weightlifters who were competing on the national stage.

Weightlifting is a relatively safe sport, and there were only a few minor incidents during this 3-day event. I witnessed 2 incidents where athletes passed out after a fight to stand up and after a heavy clean. The athletes needed a few seconds lying on the platform to allow the body to recover and the brain to receive oxygen again. One athlete suffered a minor hand injury from the fall with the weight on his shoulders. Most of the time, the sports medicine staff was busy stretching, massaging and giving advice on how to maintain optimal performance.

I had never been to Oklahoma City, so I took advantage of some free time to visit Tinker Air Force Base, the Oklahoma City National Memorial (site of the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building) and the Bricktown district for incredible food. My athlete and I even donned the earphones and mics to commentate for the USAW''s live internet broadcast. The trip will be a lifetime memory for me.

Just 3 weeks after the trip to Oklahoma City, I was part of the sports medicine staff for the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) Wrestling Championships in Hershey, Pennsylvania. This was my 6th year working at the 3-day event. PIAA Wrestling Championships has 2 classifications for wrestling based on school male enrollment. Each of the 12 weight classes had 20 wrestlers from around the state qualifying through various sectionals, districts and regionals. There were 560 athletes who competed with skin checks and weigh-ins to start each day.

The event provided 1 AT per mat (up to 6 at a time), 1 doctor per 2 mats and emergency medical services (EMS). The EMS were well versed in sports medicine, as the venue is home to the AHL''s Hershey Bears Hockey Club. The most common injuries were bloody noses and lacerations requiring stiches on-site. Only a small number of wrestlers required a trip to the emergency room. One athlete suffered a dislocated elbow and a suspected ankle fracture.

Wrestling is an intense combat sport, and sitting mat-side provided a great place to experience these athletes’ dedication, excitement and disappointment. It was also a good time to network with other ATs and physicians from the region.

The following week, I was part of the sports medicine team for the NCAA Division 3 Wrestling National Championships in the same venue in Hershey, Pennsylvania. This event was hosted by Elizabethtown College. There were only 10 weight classes with 18 wrestlers qualifying through the Regional Championships. Both days of the event started with skin checks and weigh-ins. Wrestling was on 6 mats with 1 AT per mat and 3 doctors on site. The same EMS staff was also on hand. The injuries I observed were similar to those at the state wrestling event - bloody noses and lacerations. As with the state experience, the tournament gave me many opportunities to network with collegiate level ATs and meet many new people.

As the years pass, it is easy for me to become frustrated with traveling for work. Hours sitting on a bus or plane, weather delays, baggage claims, treatments in hotel rooms and less-than-desirable destinations can take a toll. I have found embracing the adventure and keeping a youthful attitude really helps. Athletic training is an incredible profession full of challenges, relationships and especially adventure.

Where has the profession taken you?  What memories do you have of special venues and events