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The Superbowl Experience with David Stricklin

Feb 06, 2014

by David Stricklin
Assistant Athletic Trainer - Seattle Seahawks

Monday, January 20, 2014

No rest for the weary! After a hard fought battle for the NFC title, we are enjoying the fruits of our labor over the past week of preparation for a game that we did not know we would be in. Over the past week we have been packing for Super Bowl XLIII, bringing everything except the kitchen sink. Teams who travel for fall camp know this process too well… the “rather have it and not need it” mentality. Only we have less than 24 hours to get most of what we THINK we are going to need onto a truck that leaves at 6:00 pm PST, following a game that ended last night around 7:00 pm PST. Overall the day has been crazy. Obviously, we still have to have bump clinic from the game last night while simultaneously treating players, packing, and loading the truck. Then there is figuring out the personal logistics for family and loved ones making their way to New York for the game, which is another beast all in itself. All of the hustle and bustle is wrapped up in excitement and exhaustion.  More than 30 weeks ago… 7 ½ months, we started this journey along with 31 other staffs, and we are truly excited and grateful to be in the position we are in. After all, it is this moment, right now, that we work for. This moment we spend countless hours away from our friends and families to play a roll in achieving. So cheers to one more week of packing, traveling across the country, waking up early and going to bed late, paying attention to every last detail, and getting players ready for the last opening kickoff of the 2013-14 season.

 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

 

Prep day 2. Now we are into a regular game week. Tuesday is the players’ day off, so treatments in the morning and administrative work in the afternoon. Ordering stock prescription medications to take care of not only the players, but also those family members, flights for our advance staff, and putting the finishing touches on supplies and equipment that will need to make the trip. The newest challenge at this time would be the rumors that if there is inclement weather that effects travel to an obscene amount, the game will potentially be moved to another date. WOW. We could be in NY for 2 weeks, just waiting to play. That brings a whole new logistical nightmare to the equation. Of course this goes back to my philosophy of always trying to anticipate needs. Seattle Seahawks

Of course we are also dealing with the logistics of getting family out to the game. Everyone needs more than what is offered, of course. It is really easy to get caught up in the logistics of the things that initially do not have an effect on the game, but have a great personal effect on how you, personally, try to take care of all of the people who take care of you throughout the long season. Nonetheless, we have a game to prepare for, so we need to take the approach of helping to become part of the solution, not part of the problem. Tomorrow will be SB XLVIII practice #1.

 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014  - SB XLVIII Practice #1

 

Arrived to the facility this morning around 6:00 AM, treatments started at 6:45. We are reasonably healthy right now with only two of our starters on IR this season, which may be part of the reason that the team has been doing so well. Teams that traditionally do well throughout the season don’t lose key players to injury. There is a large belief in the football world that there is a substantial talent drop off from a starter to a backup in the NFL. It stands to reason that the less injuries that a team sees to the starting lineup, the better chance they have at success. Nonetheless there is still some things that we are helping the particular players through from day to day to be able to practice and play, especially following a very physically demanding game against San Francisco this past Sunday.

Following morning treatments, players will go to meetings, giving us an opportunity to pay some attention to the players that did find their way onto IR this season, take care of more administrative duties, put some final touches on packing for NY, and iron out family travel which had to be done by noon today.

Practice #1 was a lower intensity practice. No helmets or cleats, more of a “fast walk-through” pace. There was more learning going on than actual physical activity. I personally love these practices, because there is less of a chance that we are going to have to schedule diagnostic imaging from an incident during a physical practice. However, we did have a practice squad tight end get dotted in the head by a ball thrown by Tarvaris Jackson… which was more funny than anything.

Post practice a few players checked in with a team physician and we had our nightly injury meeting. Most of our time this evening has been spent in logistics meetings about NY. We want to make sure that we don’t forget to cover any bases on our end. Fortunately we have some very thorough people on the other end who are making most of this experience pretty easy for us, so I personally am not too worried about most of what we have been talking about. My main concern today regarding the trip was trying to find a way to get my dad and my father-in-law out to the game. My dad has been a football fan since I can remember. He was not able to go to Super Bowl XL with me my intern year, and it is very important to me that he make this trip, which he will be. It will be nice to have my dad, my wife and her dad out there to enjoy the experience. I know of people who have been working in the NFL for more than 30 years, and have never been to a Super Bowl. This is my second trip, and I want to take advantage of it, there is no guarantee that this opportunity will ever come around again for my family or myself. Right now, I am happy that part of the planning process has been handled so that I can fully focus on the task at hand. Towards the end of any season, it can be easy for ATCs to sort of check out. I want to make sure that I do not fall into that trap. I keep telling myself that I need to stay sharp for 11 more days. Pay Attention To Detail.

 

Thursday, January 23, 2014 - SBXLVIII Practice #2

 

Groundhog’s day as far as treatment goes. In again at 6:00am. Treatment starts at 6:45. The momentum seems to be gaining at this point. I think that the hangover from the emotional game that we played less than 4 days ago is beginning to wear off for everyone, players and staff included. Nothing new to add to the injury report from yesterday, so the usual suspects were in the training room this morning.

One fun observation of the days leading up to leaving for NY/NJ is the gift that the players are receiving. We are very close with Nike, which makes it very easy for them to get to us with a slew of shoes, jackets, hats, fuel bands, etc. There seems to be something new every hour just from them. Add into this mix watches, Beats headphones, speaker systems, cameras and who knows what tomorrow. It actually is pretty fun to see. This reminds me of college bowl games when players started receiving their bowl gifts. Obviously they were not as extravagant or as numerous, but the reactions were the same. Players would be spotted sporting their new gear almost immediately, and even if they already owned a nice pair of headphones, they are probably going to listen to the newest pair for now. Comedy.

Practice started today at 1:30pm. We were outside, which was a nice switch. Even though the wind coming off of Lake Washington was pretty cold. I think that the temp was around 45, but it felt like 32. Players seem to enjoy being outside on the grass rather than inside on the field turf. Most of them simply feel better physically after a practice on the natural grass. Our maintenance staff does an incredible job with our field’s year around, and really keep it looking and feeling spectacular.

Practice was a faster pace today. Helmets and shorts was the dress. Overall it seemed to be a focused, fast day. If  we had a game this weekend, everyone who normally plays would see time.

After the injury meeting and a short workout this evening, I took 2 of our athletic trainers (1 staff member and 1 intern), 1 equipment manager and our head of field maintenance to the airport. They will join some other advance party members from the organization tomorrow morning, and start getting the team squared away as far as the equipment room and training room goes. One of the most time consuming parts of this experience is the planning phase. Moving across the country for 1 week. I have no doubts that our guys will have the hotel training room set up as well as a solid lay of the land over at the Giants’ practice facility once the balance of the organization, including the players land in NJ on Sunday night. The goal of the two athletic trainers who went early is to have us almost completely operational when we get there, to the point that we would be able to get the team ready for practice the minute we get to the hotel… obviously that isn’t going to be the case, I will most likely be ready to either go to bed or have a beer. Down 2 personnel tomorrow for SB XLVIII practice #3.

 

Friday, January 24, 2014 - SB XLVIII Practice #3

 

In again this morning at 6 am with treatments starting at 6:45. Friday’s always look a little different from the other days with our 11:00 walk-through rolling right into a 11:30 practice. We were shorthanded today with CJ and Adam already in NJ, so there was quite the frenzy between us to get the field setup, the players prepped and the field covered in a schedule that, by design, does not allow for a great deal of time between the end of meetings and the start of walk-through.

Practice ends earlier today and there are no meetings afterwards, so the players are out of the building fairly quickly once they sort of get themselves squared away for the trip. Head Athletic Trainer Donald Rich and I took on a special assignment this afternoon once the players were out of the building, we started putting together and charging 150 Sony cameras just to help out our equipment guys who were grinding still packing the team for the trip. Initially on the surface, this doesn’t seem like it would be too difficult. Once we take the camera out of the package, insert the memory card and battery, plug the cord into the camera, plug the camera into the wall, let it charge for 90 min, unplug everything, repackage the camera and set it aside we realized that those are a lot of steps to do 150 times. D and I charged 91 cameras yesterday, 41 at a time. #machines

Today is the day that we try to pack a lot of our personal effects. Work clothes along with casual clothes, basically trying to pack twice for a place that is not going to be warm… at all… zero heat. So this takes a particular amount of planning and exclusion. You start off by trying to bring everything, and then start to make cuts and pair down to an active roster… somehow a pair of swim trunks made the cut. Not really sure how that worked out, but I will pass them off as special teams dedicated. Tomorrow will be a player off day, and we need to turn our checked bags in as well. We will run short treatments. Personally I will tie up some loose ends at home, get some bills paid, take care of some things around the house and spend some time with my wife before we head out Sunday morning to NJ. Right about now, everything is starting to feel very real, and the excitement, at least for myself is starting to build.

 

Sunday, January 26, 2014 - SB XLVIII Travel Day

 

Today is our travel day. I got to the facility around 7:00 am, was able to get a workout in prior to leaving. No treatments today, just an opportunity to get ourselves together and get on the bus. One of the most exciting parts of the day was when the players got their cameras and 24k gold Beats headphones, a gift from pro bowl corner Richard Sherman. These things were amazing, packed in hard cases lined with custom foam, like they were the hope diamond or something. Incredible.

As Always, I left early with our EQ staff to the airport to help them get the rest of our equipment and bags on the plane. The route to the airport was absolute insanity. Miles of fans on the streets, massive traffic jams, flags, painted cement mixers, and fire trucks… that was all 30 minutes before the players even left the facility. From what I saw from their cameras, there was 1 lane of traffic each way after they got off of the interstate, people were standing in the streets… wild. 5 hour flight until the next bit of craziness.  

8:00 EST

I am getting text message picture from family of their televisions as our plane is pulling into the hangar at Newark International Airport. Looking out of the window of the airplane there is a red carpet and media galore! The walk from the plane to the busses was surreal; people were chanting SEA-HAWKS! The SB XL experience was nothing like this for me. I was the advanced person in 2006, so like CJ Neumann and Adam, I arrived a few days before the team and did not get the glitz and glamour part of the fiasco.

Arrival to the Westin Jersey City was similar to arriving at the airport. Coach Carroll was doing an interview immediately after stepping off of the bus, fans and other media were everywhere, and the hotel staff was lining the lobby screaming their heads off. Ready to unwind a little tonight, get my room set up and bags unpacked. Tomorrow is SB XLVIII Practice #4 at the Giants’ practice facility.

 

Monday, January 27, 2014

 

This is our first morning in New Jersey. Treatments started in the hotel training room at 9:00 am and we had a surprising turnout. Quite a few guys came in to take care of themselves, which we always love as athletic trainers. Not soon after treatments started, the first wave of medical staff left for the Giants’ facility in our designated vehicle. We do this so that we can get everything squared away prior to the team showing up, even though our advanced guys have already done most of the leg work. The team buses on this occasion left at 10:30 am for the practice facility, which also carried the balance of our medical staff, 4 athletic trainers and 2 chiropractors. None of our doctors went this time, due to the “walk-through” pace of practice.

Once to the facility, we were able to change into our “work clothing” and started prepping the team for “walk-through”. This is a little off-putting when you are in a place that is not completely set up like a visitors locker room, so you have some trouble trying to find out where everything is as well as working in a different space, with the same time constraints that you have at home on a regular work day.

Practice was interesting. “Walk-through” was more of a very fast practice. This is nerve racking to us as we look onto the field, and one of our starting corners is covering wide receivers running at near full speed in flimsy tennis shoes. As Sam said, it doesn’t take much. Could you imagine a player, during the week of the Super Bowl, rolling an ankle, or worse, be cause he was running around without proper foot attire?? I tried to talk to him, and get him to change shoes, but to no avail, he was set. After “walk through” we only had one MRI and an Xray scheduled for a possible strained hamstring and a thumb injury respectively…. So not too bad. The medical staffs involved in the Super Bowl are amazing. From transportation to hospitals on a given day, to a non-football member of the travel party needing medical attention has been covered. These guys have answers to everything, and it’s really quite refreshing. The Giant’s athletic training staff is first class, as always. These guys have been in contact with us since Monday following the NFC championship, and have opened their home to us, unconditionally. The Giants’ facility is great. It is very new and spacious with modern internal architectural designs. At one point in time, I walked into the player’s locker room while the music was playing and I felt like I was in a club. Lunch was amazing as well. The facilities’ kitchen staff was manning the whole ordeal, and they did an awesome job, a la carte pasta, sandwich bar, salad bar, ice cream machine, etc. Really first class, the Giants’ players are fortunate.

Once we all had lunch, our staff switched travel roles, and the 3 that came to the facility early went back on the team buses. The remainder of us was able to chill with some of the stragglers and chit-chat with Byron Hansen and Steve Kennelly from the Giants’ AT staff before we hopped in our rental and headed back to the hotel. Staff dinner with us and the equipment staff tonight at Carmines, which should be awesome. We are only a short subway ride in to Manhattan, which is VERY convenient. Media day for the players tomorrow, which is always a circus to watch, and always very fun and entertaining.

 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014 – Media Day

 

Today the big deal is media day. We ran treatments shortly for about 90 minutes this morning, then got on the buses with the player to head to the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. This particular event is a circus. When the team arrived to the center, we were all shuffled into a waiting area. In this area there were some couches, tables, televisions, sandwiches, breakfast food, etc. We waited here for about an hour taking pictures of each other and waiting for the Broncos players to clear out completely.

Once it was our time on the floor, the frenzy began. Media outlets from all over the world were there with massive cameras, huge boom microphones, etc. The players were in sort of carnival-like booths for the most part, set up with microphones and small mounted cameras. Depending on the player, there was more or less media at their section of the booth. Players like Russell Wilson and Richard Sherman, had stand alone booths in the middle of the floor where the media frenzy was even more intense. It was crowded and hot on the field with so many bodies, everyone with some type of camera gear or a television personality with a camera person following them around. Mix in the fans in the stands just watching, and I could see how this could be overwhelming for a person, especially some of our players, who are fielding questions constantly and trying not to slip and say anything inflammatory. This is a fun day for the medial staff, there are not many opportunities where we can break character and get to simply be fans. We were all walking around, listening to the guys that we work with everyday answer questions and snapping photos ourselves.  Overall this is a fun experience, mostly because we get to relax a little and watch television personalities who we all watch from ESPN, NFL Network, ABC, CBS, etc. react to the answers of the guys that we know so well.

After media day, Director of Player Health and Performance Sam Ramsden and I went with a few of our players to the Giants’ facility so they could get into the hot and cold tubs, hit the sauna, etc for about an hour and a half. Later tonight we will hop on the Subway and head up to Hoboken to have dinner with a few of the Gatorade reps at City Grill, which will be nice. Tomorrow morning will be a semi regular Wednesday, back to the grind for a few days.

 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014 - SB XLVIII Practice #5

 

Today has already been a little bit of a weird day. Treatments started at 7:45 am in our training room at the hotel. The players’ first meeting started at 9:00. So we saw some guys from 7:45 till about 8:50. Meetings went up until the buses left for the practice facility at 11:30am. The reason that this has been a strange day is because the schedule this morning has changed twice since we have woken up this morning. The final schedule has the players getting to the practice facility and going straight into meetings. This postpones, what was once a 12:30 lunch to 2:00 and starts practice at 3pm, which has us leaving the facility around 5:15-6pm tonight. There is a similar schedule set up for tomorrow, but potentially a little later. Of course we have all had some plans here and there to go into the city and have dinner or something to that effect, and the schedule change definitely changes those plans.

Upon arriving to the athletic training room at the practice facility we were able to run into Leigh Weiss  and Steve Kennelly. These guys have been awesome, They make sure that everything is up and running here from the sports medicine aspect of things, as well as the stadium athletic training room, where they have already gone over there to make sure that the hot tubs and hydrocollators are working, etc. Even though we will be going over there on Friday to set up the locker room, it is nice to know that the things that would have taken some time to get going have already been taken care of. Gatorade is also doing a great job taking care of us. They have delivered enough product to probably last a college team an entire season or two to the practice facility and the stadium, which their crew has already stocked in visi-coolers, and unpacked coolers and other products. They did this in both at the Giants Training Facility and Stadium, which is a huge help because that type of stuff can be very time consuming.

Practice prep was normal, but time constrained. Taping seemed to be very crammed into the schedule, guys were out of their regular routines and forgot to do a lot of things that they normally do. I think that this has to do with a change in schedule and new environment. Most players have a very regimented routine that they have put together to help them cover their bases daily. It is kind of fun watching guys try to get back into some type of normalcy. Practice today was a regular Wednesday practice, fast and physical. The players did a very good job governing themselves. Monday was a little bit of a turned up session, players and coaches were really amped up.  I think that this group is starting to realize that they need to be prepared to play in a football game, and not the Super Bowl.

After practice, a few of the medical staff stayed behind with some of the stragglers, guys who wanted to take their time, eat dinner, get into the tubs, etc. The others will make sure that everyone who is back at the hotel gets everything that they need. Afterwards we are probably going to go into Manhattan or Hoboken and get some pizza. Nice part of being in this area, GREAT food.

 

Thursday, January 30, 2014  - SB XLVIII Practice #6

 

Similar type of morning this morning as yesterday. We ran treatments at 7:45, saw maybe 3-4 guys, then off to the practice facility after kind of waiting around for a few hours. This morning during the down time we really kind of hashed out the plan on how and when we are going to pack everything that we have brought to the hotel as far as athletic training equipment. This can be a little tricky because some of the things that we have at the hotel need to make it to the stadium today so that we can set up like we normally would on a Friday.

The most interesting thing about the day today is that this is the day that the families arrived. This includes players’ wives, coaches wives, children, etc. So there is much more of a hustle and bustle around the hotel this evening. My own wife, father and father-in-law are here as well. It was good to see my dad, since I haven’t seen him in a very long time… almost 2 years. This will be his first Super Bowl, and his first football game in 2 years. Both my dad, and Courtney’s dad are very excited to be here. They are staying in the New Yorker hotel, which is another “team hotel” that a lot of Seahawks’ staff and family are staying in as well. Courtney and I flew my dad in commercial from Sacramento and her and her dad came in on the family charter. It was funny to hear about their experience on the jet, since that is something that we take for granted since we travel like that all of the time. They were impressed with the service, the food, being able to step off of the plane directly onto a bus, etc. They had a blast, which is fun to see. Families coming in did have their fair share of problems. For some reason my father-in-law’s bag did not make it to his hotel in Manhattan, rather to ours in Jersey City. This proved to be quite inconvenient at 10pm after working for 13 hours today. So, Courtney and I hopped on the PATH train, which took us to about 5 blocks away from their hotel, dropped off the bag and got some NY pizza from Pizza Suprema. It was pretty good, not sure it was worth the trip, but seeing the dads was. Courtney and I ran into Donald and his crew on the way back to our Hotel in Jersey City on our way back around 12 am, I think that we had a little bit of a longer night than we anticipated, but still having fun.

Tomorrow is the day before the day before. I know that our guys are excited to play. Practice this afternoon was awesome. The players were flying around, but taking care of each other at the same time, it was really cool to see. If the Broncos win this game, it is not going to be because our guys were not ready to play, that’s for sure.

 

Friday, January 31, 2014 - SB XLVIII Practice #7

 

Today started a little later due to the schedule change; we did not open for treatments until 8:30 am. The fun part was the proverbial fire that we had to extinguish when the hotel came into our unpacked training room to tell us that they needed the room by this afternoon, rather than tomorrow night. Sweet. We had nothing packed up yet, and even if we did, the truck to take the gear back is not going to be to the hotel until 8 am tomorrow morning. So now we have to pack the training room, and find an empty room to store our stuff until tomorrow morning. So, CJ has been running around the hotel trying to find an answer to this dilemma, while everyone else started getting things packed up. Eventually we found a room to move stuff to, and we left CJ and Adam behind to finish the packing and moving at the hotel, while the balance of the staff headed over to the practice facility with the team. Fun times for sure. Sam told me a few years ago that the best thing that you can do to get ready for your day is wake up and expect something to go sideways. So when something goes wrong, you are expecting it, and if everything goes right, then it’s a bonus!

Practice was a regular Friday practice at a walk-through pace without helmets. Afterwards we packed up our training room at the practice facility and loaded everything onto a truck bound for Metlife. Right now we are into our normal Friday before a road game. Our stadium set-up crew consists of all of about 6-8 equipment managers and 4 athletic trainers. We spent about 4 hours meticulously setting up the locker room, athletic training room, coaches and staff locker rooms and bathrooms. If you can think of it, we have it there. From mouthwash to diagnostic ultrasound for musculoskeletal injuries, we have it covered. And this is nothing different than what we do for any road game except for the number of people that we have on this trip of course. This is always a good night, even though we are working late, we all enjoy each other’s company and have fun getting the team ready behind the scenes. It didn’t hurt that we had a little bit of time, and had a chance to watch a little bit of Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers rehearsal for the half time show.

Back at the hotel, the remainder of the staff is taking care of the team, dispensing medications, light treatments, etc. Once we finished with the stadium, we head back to the hotel, this is around 10:00 pm and CJ and I went out to meet his girlfriend and my wife with Michael and his wife.

 

Saturday, February 1, 2014 - SB XLVIII Practice #8

 

This morning was a rough one. We had to move our hotel gear, again, this time from the room that we had to store it in to the truck. The reason that this was a little challenging, is that we are working with the hotel staff, who at times can get things a little mixed up. All is better after a little breakfast prepared by our team chef, Mac, hits the stomach, however.

From the hotel, we traveled with the team to Metlife, where the players had an opportunity to check out the locker room and the field. We do this before every road game, but normally we do it after our walk-through, instead of before. Once that field trip was over, we headed over the practice facility so the players could have meetings, team picture, walk-through, and lunch before we headed back to the hotel.

Players have the rest of the afternoon off. We will have a staff dinner in New York tonight before team meetings start at 7pm. After that, curfew is at 11pm, when we all wake up tomorrow; it will be Super Bowl Sunday

It has been a long week. Planning, prepping, moving, getting up early, going to bed late and constantly putting out fires. Not to mention family needing a piece of your time as well. I know that I am ready for the game and the players are as well. To be quite honest, I am exhausted, which unfortunately outweighs my excitement at this time. I know tomorrow that will change, but right now I feel like I need a week long nap!

 

Sunday, February 2, 2014 - 2.2.14 SB XLVIII

 

This morning came… finally. We have been waiting for Game Day for 2 weeks. Last night was fun. We went out in Times Square to a couple of different spots. It seemed like we had more fans that Denver. At the restaurant we were eating dinner, people started yelling SEAH-HAWKS! About every 15-20 minutes… no joke. This morning my wife and me went out for coffee and a little bit of breakfast around 9 am. It was nice to sit and chill before stuff started getting crazy. Sometimes before a game, I will sit and think that in a few hours, I am going to be in an intense fast paced environment with 70,000 fans coming down on top of me… it makes me appreciate the serenity of a cup of coffee before the chaos. After we returned to the hotel, work started right away. Tending to some of the coaches and player needs, getting the stuff together that we were going to need to take to the stadium, meeting our catering order for the afternoon, etc., the whirlwind starts before we even leave the building. Don’t forget that we added on seeing family and friends prior to leaving the hotel, you almost relish the ride to the stadium and the 90 minutes prior to the team showing up to collect yourself with no outside distractions.

Once we arrived to the stadium we quickly moved our gear inside and started getting ourselves squared away as well as final touches of the training room, and of course, eat. Today there are a lot more pictures being taken due to the gravity of this being the Super Bowl and all. Pictures on the field, in the locker room… really trying to document the moment. It was fun.

Soon the players start rolling in and it is business as usual. Barely time to take a breath -  soft tissue work, taping working from one player to the next. Each guy has his own routine; our job is to help him manage that routine. This period flies by. Constant movement for 2 hours before the team heads out to pre-game warm ups. Once we finally get ourselves together, we head out after the team. This is usually pretty benign; mostly we have a chance to catch up with some of the athletic trainers from the opposing team. That is always fun for me. I like seeing other professionals from around the league. Regardless of the ramifications of the game, you are in the same boat in a lot of ways as your counterpart from the other team. Today I had a chance to talk with Greek and Corey from the Broncos’ staff. Their whole staff is great. Nice guys, have done a lot for the athletic training profession as a whole, as well as PFATS. If they were to have won today, I would genuinely be very happy for that crew.

The game, from my POV… I saw about ½ of it. We were busy today. The heightened importance of the game and overall sense of urgency was tremendous. We are trying to anticipate and react simultaneously to situations. Communication during game day is almost the most important thing we do. Fortunately we have had plenty of practice throughout the season, so it is second nature in this environment. We worked tirelessly today, observing the field, reacting to different injuries, communicating status to the coaches, playing go or no go calls, and managing an extra long half time. Near the end of the game, I looked up and we were winning… by a lot. WOW. Then Richard Sherman goes down with 12 minutes left to go in the game. Due to the nature of his injury, I am more worried about his prognosis, than I am losing our pro bowl corner against Peyton Manning. The game seems in hand, I am worried about Sherm’s ankle now. We shoot him back to x-ray (the medical coordination for this game was nothing short of phenomenal) exactly the way that it was rehearsed through conversation. Dr. McAdam and I determined that 1. He was not going back into the game and 2. We can immobilize him and put him on crutches and back out to the field. This isn’t the normal protocol for an injured player, but I was not about to let Richard miss the confetti shower and everything that goes along with the on-field celebration that comes with being a World Champion. In my mind, he has worked too hard for this, and players can go 15 years in the NFL, never experiencing this. I am not sure that he realized what I was trying to do, but he complied with every instruction that I gave him, and I am sure that he was grateful for the opportunity to celebrate with his teammates. Selfishly… I was happy to be out there too.

7 days a week since July 21st. 10-13 hour days. Missing time with family and friends. Dealing with personalities that sometimes are not the best every day. Guys getting injured, and working their tail off to get back. All of these things along a journey with major emotional and physical peaks and valleys to emerge… at the end… with over 120 million witnesses… Super Bowl 48 Champions. The feeling is indescribable. I am not going to sit here and say, “This is why we do it.” But it is a REALLY nice bonus.

 After the celebrations and the confetti clears, there is a party back at the hotel. Paul Allen (Seahawks’ Owner) and his band are having a massive jam session in the midst of an open bar. Hip Hop artist Macklemore also did a few songs as well. No shortage of smiles which I am sure will continue when we return home to the 12thMan!

 

Game Day with Mike Ryan

Jan 02, 2014

By Mike Ryan,PT,ATC,PES
Head Athletic Trainer/Physical Therapist
Jacksonville Jaguars

 
 

 “What does an NFL athletic trainer do on game day?”  I hear that question often and I’ve always wanted to share the answer.  Sundays during the fall season are easily the best day of the week for fans, players, coaches and, of course, athletic trainers.

_D0Z9868Last weekend was (another) big game for my Jacksonville Jaguars as we travelled to Houston to clash with AFC South foe, the Houston Texans.  Here’s what my away game day experience looked like for an NFL certified athletic trainer.

4:30 AM- Wake-up, roll-out my legs and back to loosen up for my workout.  It’s time to hit the hotel fitness room for my 50 minute bike/core program/flexibility program. “Man, you should stretch more” my hammies and hip flexors remind me as I get back on the elevator.

6:00 AM – Review my player injury and rehab notes.  Plan for pre-game medical workouts for players listed as “questionable” for the game.  This is the last quiet moments of my day so I savor this part of my Sunday. 

7:00 AM – With my body and mind ready, it’s time to head to the team pre-game meal.  I love to eat, especially breakfast.

7:45 AM – Refueled and hydrated, it’s time to head to the stadium with my loyal assistants Justin Bland and Rod Scott.  At the stadium, we put the finishing touches on prepping the game day supplies: ten miles worth of tape, twenty gallons of fluids and 12 medical trunks filled with sports medicine supplies and emergency equipment.

8:45 AM – Player Bus #1 arrives and it’s “go time”.  We tape 80+ ankles, aggressively preparing the players with massage, manual therapy techniques to increase joint range of motions, soft tissue treatments to enhance muscle and fascia blood flow, flexibility drills to promote movement patterns and the many pre-game routines that these world-class athletes need to compete at an elite level for 3+ hours. The tension and testosterone builds in the air as the game approaches while everyone seems to ignore that it’s really there.  It’s strange, I know.  Most players have specific pre-game rituals with such detail that you could set you watch by it.    

9:30 AM – This is the time when an injured player(s) is brought out to the field for an aggressive medical assessment workout to assess his status for the game.  The decision to play must be made by 90 minutes before kickoff.  I have no player medical workouts today.   I complete the NFL Game Day Cast Card, listing all casts and splints to be worn in today’s game.  An NFL official picks it up 2 ½ hours before kickoff.

11:10 AM – As the players head to the field for pre-game warmups, the medical staff follows. The unwritten rule: If the Athletic Training Room gets quiet, you’re probably late for something. Run to the field!”

11:20 AM – On the field, I have my checklist to follow. Visual check every sideline trunk is where I start. I personally test both electric screw drivers for emergency facemask removal is my first check.  I like to watch my injuries players to see how they move during warm-ups as well.  I introduce myself to the sideline support staff, review emergency details with the paramedics, meet the airway management and concussion physicians, review the communication format with the athletic trainer field observer and have fun chatting with the other PFATS members and visiting team doctors.   The Texans’ athletic trainers Geoff Kaplan, Roland Ramirez and AJ Van Valkenburg are great guys and I always enjoy catching up with them.  I wish them “good luck” but, to be honest, I really don’t mean it. 

11:45 AM – If any medical issues arise, our General Manager and Head Coach are updated immediately.   My staff and I strongly remind the player and staff to hyper-hydrate and to get any needed sports medicine assistance now. This is the last time to get the little things done: extra tape on that fractured finger or some Active Release Technique for the tight hamstring or adjust the knee brace.

11:55 AM – My busy-work is done, my headset is turned on, my supplies are loaded in my belt bag/pockets and now my mind eagerly tunes into the energy in that locker room for the game.  We don’t like the Texans and they don’t like us.  It makes the excitement for this game that much more intense!  

12:00 PM – “They’re Heading Out!” cries out and the entire medical staff, with our pockets and medical belt packs properly stocked, excitedly heads to the tunnel with the players.

12:04 PM – The crowd is overly loud today.  The traditional high-fives take place, the ammonia cap requests are coming fast and the players and staff do their pre-game things on the sideline waiting for battle.  I like this part of the pre-game…watching who has “the look” in their eyes and who is not quite locked in yet.  I shake hands with most of the coaches and follow through on a few player pre-game rituals.  It’s time for the kickoff. The excitement, the noise and the pure energy is addicting! “THIS is why I love this job” echoes in my head and it’s such a rush to be right there on the field as the stadium begins to rock! As to what I scream at that point, I’ll keep that to myself!

1:05 to 4:15 PM – My role becomes simple: Keeping the players safe and the football staff updated on every medical issue impacting the players on the field.  When a player “goes down”, one of my assistants (Justin Bland or Rod Scott), Team Physician Dr. Kevin Kaplan and I race out to evaluate and treat injured player.  Once on the sideline with the injured player, it’s my job to quickly updating the Head Coach, position coach and special team coach on the injury and the projected plan for that player. 

An extensive evaluation and x-rays typically takes place and the player is either:

1.      Ruled “OUT” for the game and his physical therapy is started immediately.

2.      Treated with physical therapy/taped/padded/braced

  1. Put through an agressive return-to-play agility drill on the sideline based on his position and injury
  2. Give the opportunity to be cleared by the Team Physician to return to the game.         

This is the challenging and fun part of the job.  It’s multitasking at its best in a high energy and testosterone-filled setting with one eye on the field and one eye on the players on the sideline.

_D0Z98844:30 to 5:45 PM – Win or lose, the role of the medical staff doesn’t alter one bit.  We evaluate and treat post-game injuries and prepare the injured players to fly back to Jacksonville. The use of x-rays, specific sports medicine techniques and supplies helps this medical process to run smoothly.  A post-game injury report is written up in my notebook.  We won the game!

5:45 to 5:55 PM – Strip, run to the shower, put on suit and tie, grab a box dinner/bottle of water and race to the five waiting team buses.  My bus is #4: it’s a fun combo of both staff and media on this bus.

6:30 PM – Security check and board the plane, with a victory in hand. Update the Head Coach and General Manager on medical issues, coordinate the icing and positioning of the players with my assistants for the long ride home. I finalize any special tests such as MRIs, concussion testing and medical consultant appointments with Nancy our MVP office manager back in Jacksonville before the plane takes off.  This is an important task for me to update the players and staff before we leave Houston. 

30,000 feet – Eat healthy & relax.

I enjoy my job as an athletic trainer & physical therapist in the NFL. It’s not easy. It’s a 7 day a week job for six straight months but that’s just part of the job.  I love the challenge and the responsibility associated with this exciting career.

I owe my assistants and friends, Rod Scott and Justin Bland, so much for the outstanding job they do each and every day.  I couldn’t do my job without them!  Our objective is simple: To keep our players as healthy as possible so they can do their job at an elite level.

 

Eight Days a Week: The Vikings take on London

Oct 08, 2013

Our 2013 Journey Across the Pond
by Rob Roche - Assistant Athletic Trainer, Minnesota Vikings

June-July 2013: Help!

During the 2012 NFL season rumors swirled that our organization would be playing a regular season home game in London, England. With plans for a new stadium in the works and the opportunity to grow the Minnesota Vikings brand, those rumors materialized and in the spring of 2013, a date was set for September 29, 2013.  I was deemed the medical staff’s “logistics coordinator,” a title that immediately led me to reference John Lennon when he sang “Help, I need somebody, Help, not just anybody, Help, you know I need someone, Help!”  

                With a trip overseas on the horizon, our Head Athletic Trainer, Eric Sugarman, declared that we would navigate every obstacle to provide the first-class medical care that our players expected. The entire club’s goal became the creation of a seamless transition between Winter Park, our home base, and our two London headquarters.  For the medical staff, planning began in June with conference calls, meetings, emails, etc.  About this time, I was introduced to what has become one of my least favorite words: “carnet”.  To successfully travel internationally with the essential equipment for an NFL team, my duty as the “logistics coordinator” required the submission of the carnet list; a comprehensive list of every packed item with quantities, weight, cost per item, and country of origin.  With over 1000 items to pack, you can understand why I was singing “Help!” 

                Our NFL contacts informed us that not everything could travel with us on the plane in September. Rock-It Cargo, a New York based shipping company known for logistics and travel for musical acts, would be transporting much of our equipment to London via ocean freight in August. This included any alcohol based item such as Isopropyl Alcohol, Hydrogen Peroxide, Tape Remover, Ammonia Inhalants, etc., as well as our water caddy pumper batteries and battery chargers, Gatorade, Gatorade Coolers, Pedialyte, 43 cases of tape and three 100 gallon tubs which would be used as ice plunges.  The end of June and beginning of July was spent simultaneously packing supplies to go to training camp and to New York for its final destination to London.

                In the weeks leading up to the trip, countless questions arose.  Can we travel with prescription medications into the country?  How do we schedule MRIs or X-rays?  Whom do we call in an emergency?  What hospital should we use?  What are the game-day emergency protocols?  Can we use our computers or cell phones in England?  In an NFL week, the focus is solely on winning the game on Sunday. Preparing to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers in week 4 of the regular season would require much more than 7 days.

Monday 9/23/13: Ticket to Ride

                The day was finally upon us and unfortunately so was a 0-3 record.  We had just lost our second straight contest in the waning minutes of the game. Losing, then triaging in the morning, packing in the afternoon and hopping on an 8-hour flight made for an exhausting day.

                Our operations staff did yeoman’s work in planning our travel arrangements. Although we were traveling abroad, their preparations made it feel like a regular away trip.  The medical-staff travel party, however, was inflated for this trip.  A mini medical army, it consisted of five staff athletic trainers, two orthopedic surgeons, three internal medicine doctors, one chiropractor, one dentist and two massage therapists.

 The duration of the flight was one of the most talked about aspects leading up to the trip. During training camp, Eric Sugarman arranged for a sleep specialist from the Mayo Clinic to speak to our players and coaching staff regarding international travel as well as the benefits of sleep and the harms of sleep deprivation.  His suggestion for acclimating to the time difference was to get a full night’s sleep during the 8-hour plane ride.  I heeded his advice and closed my eyes right after the Virgin Airline’s flight attendant offered me dinner.  When I awoke the same attendant was offering me breakfast!

Tuesday 9/24/13: Helter Skelter

                We touched down in London around 9:15am local time and were expedited through customs and immigration. With 100 people in Vikings’ sweat suits, it was easy for customs to determine our reason for visiting.  In order to begin the acclimation process as well as our roles as ambassadors of the game, the team whisked away to Wembley Stadium for an NFL Play 60 community relations event.

 The support staff, however, boarded a bus to the team hotel to begin the hectic preparation of our new facilities.  Our home until Friday was The Grove, a five star luxury resort in Hertfordshire, England boasting of championship golf, award winning spas, and beautiful grounds.  Tiger Woods famously won the 2006 WGC American Express Championship at The Grove.  Although I did not play any golf, I am quite sure our doctors got in a few holes.  Hey, sometimes the stereotypes are true!

                The hotel supplied coaches’ meeting rooms, a players’ lounge, a massage room, an athletic training room, and a private restaurant.  A makeshift facility containing the weight room, athletic training room, equipment room, and locker room was set up on the grounds of the hotel overlooking a pristine 100-yard practice field/soccer pitch.  We spent a few hours preparing the athletic training room and I am proud to report that everything we needed had arrived.  Upon the team’s arrival, we held a 4:00pm treatment session and then considered dinner plans.  First night in England, what else but fish and chips of course?!

Wednesday 9/25/13 & Thursday 9/26/13: A Hard Day’s Night

Wednesday and Thursday, the hump days of the NFL week, can be brutal consisting of treatments, player meetings and 2.5 hour practices. Fortunately, our team was bonding over the sights, sounds and tastes of England.  The hotel supplied a shuttle with roundtrip service to the local city of Watford.  A 10 minute ride away, Watford has a large train station where you can catch the train into London. Many of our players and staff took advantage of and appreciated this service.

 Before the trip others around the league who had made the same trip were critical of the food and said things like “the food was so bland” and “your players will struggle to keep on weight.” Thanks to our head chef, Geji McKinney Banks, we had the exact opposite reaction. Geji worked closely with the dining staff at The Grove and collaborated on a very delicious and nutritious menu. I hope that she imported the recipes for the 15 desserts that I sampled!

Friday 9/27/13 & Saturday 9/28/13: Here, There, Everywhere

                Wednesday and Thursday flew right by! Our injured players got healthier and our team improved following two solid practices.  Immediately after our Friday morning practice, we packed up the operation and relocated to the Grosvenor House, a posh, downtown London hotel. Once again, we set up another athletic training room and refused to miss a beat.  We spent Friday night as a team enjoying dinner at the Tower of London.  This medieval fortress housed the British monarchy for centuries and currently houses the famous Crown Jewels. Talk about some serious bling!

In keeping with tradition, our Saturday morning “donut club” convened during the AM treatments. We then ventured to Wembley Stadium for our pre-game walk-through and the players’ first view inside the 84,000 seat stadium.  On Saturday afternoon, we raced through the streets of London trying to take in as many of the famous landmarks as time would allow. The most interesting aspect of London is the dichotomy between the old and the new.  From a riverboat on the Thames, you can see the centuries old Tower Bridge vs. the Millennium Bridge, the Tower of London vs. Tate Modern, and Big Ben vs. the London Eye.  One afternoon was just enough to whet my appetite to return as a full-blown tourist.

Sunday 9/29/13: Come Together

                On game day, I could not help but think of the months of preparation that our organization had put into this trip and how everything had come together. Hearing the Gjallarhorn and seeing the thousands in attendance clad in purple and gold (and a few Terrible Towels too) made it feel as if we were back at Mall of America Field.  Obstacles such as fatigue, illnesses and allergies, multiple venue changes, and time away from their families could not deter our players.  As the Vikings ruled England for a short time centuries ago, the Minnesota Vikings would defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers and rule England on this day.

Epilogue: The End

                In reflection, I should never have been worried as it turned out that help was never far away. The NFL, our ownership, our operations department, our athletic training staff, our equipment staff, our kitchen staff, our IT department, Gatorade, and Virgin Airlines among many others provided the assistance we needed to make a successful transition to England.  In the end, we heightened the popularity of the league, experienced a different culture, and most importantly, won our football game.  It was an eight-day adventure that I will never forget. God Save the Queen.

 
 
 

From the Sidelines of the Hall of Fame Game

Aug 27, 2013

By Hanson Yang, Assistant Athletic Trainer/Physical Therapist – Dallas Cowboys

Yang_HansonThe Hall of Fame (HOF) Game, in Canton, Ohio, signals the start of the NFL’s new season.  Two historic franchises, the Dallas Cowboys and the Miami Dolphins, played in this year’s game, and I was honored to take part in the festivities and experience the unbelievable history and tradition. The highlight of my trip was witnessing a former player and coach being inducted to the Hall prior to the game.  As a member of the Dallas Cowboys organization, I was in awe of the connections being created between current and former coaches and players.

To help the players get acclimated to being on the road, preparation for the HOF Game was the same as any other.  We traveled as a team to Canton a day early where treatments, taping times, team meetings, and walk-thru’s mimicked those of an actual away game.  The only difference was after we landed, we were escorted to the HOF exhibit, allowing the players and staff to partake in the festivities.

Walking through the exhibit and seeing the history that has made the NFL as popular as it is today was a very special experience. The displays and newly renovated facilities made it evident that the committee puts a great deal of time and effort into making this memorable for all that attended.  Personally, there were special moments all around: seeing players from both teams interact off the field; seeing memorabilia from the past and present; and seeing the shrines of the new HOF inductees. To make the experience richer, two former Cowboys were being inducted into the Hall: Larry Allen and Bill Parcells.  The entire Dallas Cowboys organization was thrilled to finally celebrate these legends.  What really caught my attention was the exhibit created in honor of past and present athletic trainers, displaying the importance of the profession. As an athletic trainer for the Dallas Cowboys, and having firsthand knowledge of the dedication required for this position, I was thoroughly grateful for the recognition of my predecessors.  To be part of the festivities was an incredible experience, and we hadn’t even played, yet.

The HOF game has been played at the historical Fawcett Stadium for many years. Because it is a high school stadium, the facilities are smaller, adding another challenge to our new environment.  The players and staff alike had to adapt to the confines of the space. From a medical perspective, we had to be creative in how we utilized the areas we were given, both in the locker room and on the field. The sidelines were small and crowded, and we really had to be more observant due to the circumstances. At kickoff, the crowd roared with excitement as the NFL’s new season began. I looked into the stands, amazed at the amount of Cowboys fans in attendance, even for such a small town. The support and cheers pushed the Cowboys to a joyous victory! It was an exciting game, but more importantly, no one was seriously injured.  It was an exhausting trip but a great way to start the season.

 

Kick off to the NFL Preseason: The Hall of Fame Game

Aug 15, 2013

By Naohisa Inoue, Assistant Athletic Trainer – Miami Dolphins

P1000119The Hall of Fame Game is the annual kick-off to the NFL pre-season.   Each year two teams play each in Canton, Ohio at Fawcett Stadium, a 22,000 seat high school football venue unlike any other.  This year’s contest was between the Miami Dolphins and Dallas Cowboys. Assistant Athletic Trainer for the Miami Dolphins, Naohisa Inoue speaks about his experience.

After reflecting on my trip to Canton, Ohio for the Hall of Fame Game, I can say that I had an unbelievable experience. It was my first ever trip to the Hall of Fame and being a part of the Hall of Fame Game either as a fan or employee of one of the participating franchises. Not only did our staff get the experience of working and watching our team compete  in the game, but also had an opportunity to tour the Hall of Fame. One of the main things that impressed me after the conclusion of our tour was how the NFL was born and how it continues to grow into what it is today. Seeing all of the old Super Bowl rings, trophies and memorabilia was also great. I was especially proud to see there is a specific area dedicated to the Athletic Trainers and PFATS. 

During Pre-Game Warm-up’s,  there were past Hall of Fame Inductees on the field mingling with our current players and it was clear to see how much of an impact just these small conversations they were having with our guys. Once the game kicked off though, it was just like any other game.

During the game itself, I had a few moments to gaze into the stands and noticed a lot of the people didn’t have specific allegiances to the Dolphins or Cowboys; they were just simply football fans and loved the game. Some did have jerseys of the Dolphins and other teams, but everyone ultimately wanted to see an exciting game. One cool tidbit for us that I thought was interesting was finding out how many of our former players had actually played games in Fawcett Stadium while they were in high school.

HOF2

While it was a very busy two days and very typical of the routine for road games, it was a great experience and a great honor to be a part of the Hall of Fame Game this year.

For more information regarding the Pro Football Hall of Fame, please visit www.profootballhof.com

 

Home Away From Home - Baltimore Ravens - Superbowl XLVII

Apr 30, 2013

by Kevin Domboski, Assistant Athletic Trainer, Baltimore Ravens

Athletes are creatures of habit and even more so when it comes to the “Big Game”.  So as a team begins it preparations for what will be the culmination of a season that will be defined by whether it wins or loses this single game, the athletic training staff also works to do its part.  Even though this is done week in and week out throughout the season, when it comes to the Super Bowl one looks to make sure no stone is unturned in creating a “home away from home”.  

During the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, each team spends one week at their facility that has all supplies,  modalities, pools, tubs, and everything the football team is used to when preparing for a game.  The second week of game preparation is at a premiere hotel in the city of the game.  However, hotels, while they are luxurious and accommodating, are not necessarily set up to accommodate every need of a professional football team for an entire week.

During the two week preparation time for Super Bowl XLVII, our staff looked at the many needs of our players and what their regular routines were in our training facility. One that stood out to us was the player’s use of our hydrotherapy room.  In our state of the art facility we have an in-ground hot tub and cold tub that can hold approximately 20 to 25 players each.  These tubs are more like small swimming pools than the typical hot tub.  Our players will use the two tubs for varying reasons before and after practice, whether to warm up prior to practice or to ice down their legs afterwards.  Quite a few of our players will move between the hot and cold tubs to contrast their leg which helps to aid in their recovery.  So as a staff, we felt it necessary to find a way to provide our players with the ability utilize hot tubs and cold tubs down in New Orleans, at our team hotel. 

So our next mission as a staff was to figure out how we were going convert a traditional hotel ballroom, which was the assigned “athletic training room”, for the week and replicate as much as we could the facility we have in Baltimore.  In order to accomplish this mission, we decided to bring two of our traditional whirlpools, which are big enough to hold one player each, up from our stadium.  The players are use to using these at the stadium and so they would be familiar to the players in their new “home”. Each whirlpool was placed on a wooden pallet in order for us to be able to operate the drainage system for the tubs.  We then loaded them onto the moving trucks that were bound for New Orleans.  That was the easy part. 

The next challenge was for our advance setup team.  Shortly after the conference championship game, each team taking part in the Super Bowl sends an advance setup team to get ready for the team and its support staff to come into town.  The logistics of moving an entire NFL football team operation for a week is no small feat.   Our staff utilized the Ravens’ advance setup team to help prep the ballroom to become a waterproof hydrotherapy room.    One thing to keep in mind is that gallons upon gallons of water and expensive hotel carpets don’t mix well.  So extra time and care was taken to protect the carpeting in the hotel ballroom from any water that might be spilled.  Next, two layers of plastic were laid down followed by a piece of thin carpeting for a little bit of comfort and the ballroom was waterproofed and now ready for the whirlpools. 

The only two things left to secure to make us operational was a source of water to fill the tubs and a way to drain the tubs.  We were able to find both of these back in the service corridor of the hotel behind our ballroom.  So out came the 100 ft garden hoses to fill the tubs and another hose to drain them at the end of the day.  We also found out that one needed patience, as it didn’t take that long to fill them each morning, but draining them was another story.  We quickly realized it was best to just let them drain overnight.

When the players entered the training room in New Orleans they were pleased to see all the accommodations we had provided for them, including the tubs.  Many players look forward to this ritual as they planned out their week of mental and physical preparation in New Orleans.  Being able to keep routines is essential to many athletes success.

In the end, we were able to find a way to provide our players with an operational hydrotherapy room which provided a similar environment to what they had back home as best we could.  We really felt this allowed them to go through their regular weekly routine of preparation as best they could and prepare for what was the biggest game of their lives. There were many factors that led to the Baltimore Ravens winning Super Bowl XLVII, and our staff feels that we were able to contribute to that success by helping to make that hotel ballroom a “home away from home”.

 

The NFL Scouting Combine - Through the Eyes of an NFL ATC

Apr 12, 2013

 by Chris Fischetti, Buffalo Bills

Combineroom

As the end of the regular season winds down, many athletic training staffs have a variety of tasks to accomplish, from upcoming playoff games to end of season physicals.  Regardless of the eventuality of each of our seasons, we are quickly reminded of the various events that contribute to the make up our “off season”.  One of the first events, and an extremely important part of the off season, is the annual NFL Scouting Combine and Physicals.  It is held each year in Indianapolis during the latter part of February and serves as a league wide opportunity for all of the Coaching and Medical Staffs to evaluate the invited draft eligible college players in preparation for the upcoming Draft in April. With this comes much curiosity, interest, and intrigue associated with a variety of emerging players. Questions about who might be “that guy” whom everyone will be surprised by or remember as being special always exist.  While the Coaching staffs are interested in each player’s performance in relation to assessing strength, power, agility and speed, the Medical side focuses on the evaluation of each of the players’ past history and current medical and orthopedic status.  Along with that, these assessments help teams to identify factors which affect a player’s future potential or medical concerns.

Prior to our arrival in Indianapolis, preparation for the Combine begins by entering basic information on each player into our software program, creating player charts and packing up all of the necessary materials that are used throughout the week.  These may include items such as reflex hammers, goniometers, dictation machines, laptop computers and KT 1000 devices.

During the week of the Combine, each team’s Medical staff (including orthopedic and internal medicine Team Physicians, certified Athletic Trainers, Radiologists, and Cardiologists) obtain athlete’s medical histories, complete ImPact and Cybex testing, order/assess diagnostic studies/testing and perform approximately 335 physicals.  Players are then seen by position group(s) over a 4 day period with the number of athletes seen varying between ~ 70 to 90+ athletes per day.  Each of the invited athletes is evaluated by one of the team’s physicians and then dictated on for future reference in connection to that athlete’s status/condition.  A medical grade is assigned individually by each team’s staff (various unique scales are used by each team independently) and a medical chart is developed for each player.  Our role as Athletic Trainers during this process includes reviewing the accuracy of player histories, assisting the physicians with the execution of player’s documentation and diagnostic work ups and facilitating the movement of players from station to station.

In addition to the execution of players’ physicals, the Combine serves as an opportunity for each of us to get an up close look at potential players. It also gives us a chance to briefly catch up with some guys who you might have a previous connection with.     

Outside of completing the physicals themselves, the Combine week also serves as an educational experience for NFL ATC’s and Team Physicians.  The annual educational seminar and business meeting for PFATS occurs during the first two days of our week.  The NFL Physician’s Society / PFATS General Medical Symposium and Sports Science Symposium are held later in the week.  During this year’s meetings a variety of pertinent topics were discussed that range from updates regarding concussion management and return to play assessment to scientific papers, case studies and presentations from various Team Physicians.  This is a great opportunity for all us to be involved with our doctors and learn from their perspectives.

Lastly, the week of the Combine offers many of us the chance to re-unite with fellow members/friends within PFATS, catch up on what is happening in each other’s lives outside of football and serves as a chance to re-ignite the professional and personal relationships that are a huge part of the Brotherhood of PFATS.

All in all, the Combine always seems to come way too quickly after the completion of the prior season and definitely serves as the trigger which sets off the preparation for the new one.  For each of us it ignites the spark which gets you thinking about the excitement that is associated with our jobs and the love we have for being an Athletic Trainer in the NFL. 

 

Byron Hansen - A Day in the Life

Apr 12, 2013

Byron Hansen started out as an athletic trainer at the University of Oregon more than 35 years ago. During the span of more than three decades, Hansen has had the opportunity to work with some of the world’s most elite athletes and doctors who have helped shape the way he approaches sports medicine.


Hansen, an assistant athletic trainer and coordinator of rehabilitation for the New York Giants, worked alongside and was mentored by doctors regarded as some of the “pioneers of sports medicine” – Don Slocum and Robert Larson, inductees of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM) Hall of Fame – while starting his athletic training career at the University of Oregon.
“I was blessed to be able to work with pioneers in sports medicine at the University of Oregon,” he says. “That really gave me a nice foundation to grow on.”


Hansen continued to seek out spots where he could continue to grow as an athletic trainer. Upon completing his master’s degree at the University of Colorado, Hansen trekked west to take a position at the University of Southern California. “One of the reasons why I went there was to work with the ‘father of sports medicine,’ Robert Kerlan, a very prominent physician,” he says. Also an inductee into the AOSSM Hall of Fame, Robert Kerlan was one of the founding physicians of Southern California’s Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinics. These clinics have provided care for some of Los Angeles’ major sports teams for nearly 30 years. “I feel like the doctors I’ve worked with have been very helpful to me. I can rely on them and they have made my job a lot easier,” he says. “I’ve continued that here in New York with Dr. Russell Warren, another inductee into the AOSSM Hall of Fame, and the Hospital for Special Surgery.”


At his current post at the Giants, Hansen is now lending his years of expertise to young doctors and athletic trainers from the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) who come to work for the team as part of a Sports Medicine Fellowship. Hansen and his team of sports medicine experts mentor these young doctors and athletic trainers, much like he was mentored in the beginning of his own career, as they work alongside them daily.


“You start these relationships, and you build on them,” he says. “You create a bond and we spend a lot of time together figuring out the injuries and how to manage them, whether it’s surgically or rehabilitation, and you get a game plan together.”


Together with the fellows and the rest of his medical crew, Hansen spends the bulk of his time diagnosing and treating his players’ injuries. In his role as Coordinator of Rehabilitation, Hansen determines the number of major and minor injuries and delegates treatment for each player. During the season, his priority is to get his hurt players healthy and back to competition swiftly and safely while minimizing the chance for re-injury.


“It’s always a challenge, but that’s kind of the fun part, to see if you can get somebody back quicker rather than longer so then hopefully you can win a game or two more,” he says.
During Hansen’s career, a couple key innovations in sports medicine have aided both himself and his colleagues nationwide in speeding up the injury diagnosis and treatment processes: the MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and the arthroscope.


The MRI debuted in the late 70s – at the beginning of Hansen’s career – and significant improvements in arthroscopic surgery came about toward the end of the 70s and beginning of the 80s. These two advancements in sports medicine affected the way both athletic trainers and physicians approached treating injured athletes.


“We’ve been able to utilize the MRI evaluate ligament sprains, muscle strains and fractures,” Hansen says. “That has been extremely beneficial and has allowed us to have much more information to help us.”


These technological strides have been crucial to helping heal anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, one of the more well-known athletic injuries to those outside the athletic training room. Throughout his career, Hansen has watched – and been a part of – the evolution of sports medicine and its effect on professional athletes’ careers.


“Up until about the middle to late 80s, it was always a challenge on what was the best way of fixing an ACL injury. In the old days, you’d put them in a plaster cast and they’d get a lot of atrophy and stiffness in their joints; those athletes would not come back  for 12-18 months,” he says. “Now, you can get a person back from an ACL injury in six to nine months. We’ve been able to save a lot of players’ careers with the arthroscope, MRI and other advanced rehab techniques.”


In addition to these advances in sports medicine, Hansen believes in the power of connecting with injured players. Even during the slim chance that Hansen isn’t spending time with an injured player, during the season, he’s seeing all of his players at least three times a day during training camp and the regular season.


Though injured players visit with several specialists and athletic trainers throughout their recovery, Hansen is the one monitors every part of the recovery process. He meets the athlete at the team’s new training facility, the Timex Performance Center, seven days a week.


“We have a state of the art new facility that is very luxurious and has a hot tub, cold tub, underwater treadmill, rehab area, treatment area, doctor’s office and large weight room and a large indoor facility,” he says. “It’s enabled us to do a better job, especially in the off season, rehabbing players. I walk them through every stage of the rehab, go to the follow-up doctor’s appointments and teach them how to walk and run to hopefully transition them back to the playing field.”


Hansen credits his solid approach to providing undivided attention and top-notch care to his players to the medical training he has received and experiences he has been through both off the field and on the field.


“These athletes are competing at a high level,” he says. “Our job is to protect them and try to keep them healthy as long as possible.”

 
 
 
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