by Will Li (’23) | April 8, 2022
From shin splints to torn rotator cuffs, injuries are ubiquitous in the realm of athletics, with the potential to irreversibly alter an athlete’s career. But arguably more impactful are the trainers and sports doctors who heal and rehabilitate athletes. In light of National Athletic Training Month in March, The Lancer recently spoke with Saint Francis’ very own student athletic training organization: Lancer SportsMed.
In their room across from the Gomo Family Fitness Center, pairs of students work weekly shifts under the guidance of Saint Francis athletic trainers Mr. Scott Heinrichson and Ms. Lara Acedillo, according to three-year member Kyle Nguyen (’23). The shifts are typically between one and two hours long, and students can choose which seasons they sign up for depending on availability, he continued. New member Marc Halteh (’23) added that the hours are “super flexible.”
The club’s hands-on, immersive experience also inspires members to continue sports medicine beyond high school. “You know this is something you might want to pursue,” said three-year member Gianna Piccione (’23). While other clubs allow members to explore their interests, SportsMed is “very focused,” she added.
“There aren’t many clubs that involve sports outside of playing a sport itself,” continued Halteh. “SportsMed combines a college major and a common passion that people love.”
The prospective trainers relieve and rehabilitate countless injured athletes from various sports during their shifts and have access to an assortment of apparatuses, including athletic wraps and the famed “Torture Tub” ice baths for alleviating muscular soreness.
“We log our hours in the athletic training room. And we have skill sheets,” explained three-year member Lily Arangio (’23). “When we’re able to perform a [rehabilitative] skill by ourselves well, we get that skill checked off.”
One service the club members frequently provide is the ankle wrap, which functions as a “mini-brace” that straightens an injured ankle, explained Nguyen. He mentioned multiple “intricate steps” to complete an ankle wrap, such as wrapping the bandage in a horseshoe pattern to mitigate swelling.
SportsMed trainees also assist athletes with recovery from more severe injuries. “It usually takes a long time, with cross-training, to recover from chronic pain and injuries,” explained two-year member Jillian Yujuico (’23). On the other hand, “if it’s a wrist or ankle sprain, we’ll just give you exercises and you’ll be good in two weeks.”
Ms. Acedillo, who studied sports medicine in college and has worked as a trainer at multiple high schools, added that backs and shins prove to be “nuisances” that require a “long period of time” to recover compared to knees and ankles.
Aside from shifts, each club member is also required to work at least one game per season, tending to players’ injuries during play. First-year trainee Cate McCarthy (’24) described the experience as “really fun,” and Arangio described working games as “challenging” but also “a learning experience.”
The club also hosts biweekly informative meetings during Thursday lunch where Ms. Acedillo teaches anatomy, kinesiology, and other aspects of sports medicine. Halteh enjoys how she sometimes teaches using trivia, recalling that “We were playing a game two meetings ago. There were two teams, and the last question was ‘How many bones are in the human body?’ I said, ‘206,’ and my whole team was cheering. It was a nice moment.”
Despite the club’s strong rebound from the pandemic, the onset of quarantine in March 2020 “shifted how we looked at learning sports medicine instead of just relying on shifts to learn,” recalled Arangio, who was anticipating her first shift right as school closed. During quarantine, the club switched to alternative forms of immersion into sports medicine, inviting speakers such as Dr. Kenneth Akizuki, the San Francisco Giants’ team physician, and Piccione’s father, a chiropractor. Club members also practiced skills at home with taping kits from school, added Arangio.
But even after almost one year of in-person meetings, shifts, and games, the most rewarding aspect of the club to many members is still the opportunity to provide aid to wounded athletes—“being a part of helping others instead of always being helped,” explained Halteh. “Usually, I only see my progression when I’m injured. But being able to help someone else and see them grow from being injured back to healthy, back to a hundred percent, is really cool.”