By Tommy Keeler Jr.
Trenton Davis was screaming in pain.
The Strasburg junior laid on the ground after what seemed like a normal play during the first quarter of the Strasburg-Clarke County football game on Sept. 21.
Davis suffered what turned out to be a pinched nerve, but everyone at Wilbur M. Feltner Stadium was concerned it may have been more serious. As Davis laid there in pain, he had another student near to help calm him down -- Strasburg athletic trainer student aide Dani Swafford.
Swafford admitted she was a little scared herself, but the senior knew she had to stay calm for Davis.
"I just calmed him down," Swafford said. "We had to cut off his helmet and put him on a backboard. That was the first time that I had to go out and deal with somebody screaming. I kind of stepped back and did whatever [Strasburg athletic trainer Abbie Hansberger] told me to do. I was basically just there if they needed anything and to tell Trenton to calm down."
It was an experience Swafford won't forget, and one that is made possible through the school systems in the area. All of the area schools have their athletic trainers teach a class dealing with sports medicine. At most schools it's only open to juniors and seniors, and there is a more advanced class for the second-year aides.
Most of the schools in the area have the students in the sports medicine classes serve as student aides, who get valuable experience helping the athletic trainers at the schools.
"I really could not do it without them," Hansberger said. "On Friday nights if I'm dealing with somebody whose injured on the sidelines, I have another set of eyes and ears who can scream, 'Miss Hansberger, let's go,' if somebody is injured. It's just helpful."
During the fall, football is the main sport where the student aides are needed. Most of the time they'll take care of the water bottles and carry the sweat towel out for the players during timeouts. They also look out for any blood, or if they see anyone who might be injured. They sometimes also go out on the field, if a player is injured to assist the athletic trainer.
One of the biggest sports that the students help out with is wrestling.
"Wrestling is one where they do end up helping a lot, hands-on, blood-type stuff," Central athletic trainer Teresa Martilik said. "They have to wear gloves all the time -- I don't let them take them off. That's definitely an experience for them. A lot of them have never really seen anything like that before because if you're in the stands, you don't see it up close. They're surprised as to how much blood it actually is."
One problem the schools have with the student aides is that many of the students taking the sports medicine classes are athletes. That makes it difficult for many of them to have the time to help out the trainers.
Martilik said of her seven students in sports medicine 1, six are participating in fall sports.
"So that kind of limits the help that they can give me after school," she said. "We spend the last few minutes before practice getting ready and preparing for practice and a lot of them will help me after practice loading stuff up. They'll do what they can."
Stonewall Jackson has the same problem, which is one reason why athletic trainer Dan Carroll uses two JMU students to help him instead of using high school students.
"With the kids I have in class right now, all of them are participating in other extracurricular things, so there's not really a lot of time for them to [help out]," Carroll said. "As part of the classwork they are required to come in and do some observation hours. When I'm doing treatments and rehabilitation and things like that during lunch periods -- they have their own schedule. They come in and assist and help and observe with that."
Sherando also uses college students to help out. Sherando has one Shenandoah student come and help out in what is called a clinical, which is similar to an internship.
Sherando athletic trainer Tim Duvall said he started the program with Shenandoah in 2001.
This semester, Kat Terza is helping him out and said she's enjoyed it.
"For the most part I've been here for two semesters and it's went really well," Terza said. "The kids have been good. I've learned a lot from Tim."
Another advantage of having a college student and high school student trainers together is that the high schoolers can learn a lot from the college students as well.
"A lot of the kids will ask me for help before Tim, which is kind of nice," Terza said. "To get that experience -- it's pretty fun."
One of the most important parts of the student aide trainers is that they can figure out if it's something they want to do in college.
Strasburg senior cross country runners Kirsten Campbell and Rachel Taylor went to William and Mary for a sports medicine class this past summer and became interested in the field.
They then took the sports medicine 1 class this year at Strasburg.
"I feel like it's a really important class because it will reflect a diluted version of what college will entail," Campbell said.
One other advantage of having the student aides help out is the fact that as students they know the other athletes very well.
Many of the athletic trainers said the students see and hear things that they won't.
"They're my eyes and ears around the school," Duvall said. "They hear kids talk. If somebody's trying to hide a concussion, they're going to hear things. That's been a nice asset to have."
Sherando junior and athletic trainer student aide Cheyenne Reuter said she knows she wants to go into the medical profession, and this experience has been a great one.
Reuter has also seen a lot over the two years she's been doing it.
"You never know what you're going to see," Reuter said. "In the summer we had to put a kid on the spineboard. That was really scary because I didn't want to hurt him or anything. Then [on Oct. 13] I had to touch [Sherando quarterback] Reid's [Entsminger] collarbone because he broke it.
"It was gross, but it was awesome."
Another real positive for the student aides is that they get to help out at the different sporting events, and get a different, behind-the-scenes look.
Many of them also get to be on the football field each Friday night.
"Football's a big part of our community," Taylor said. "So it's been a lot of fun helping out with something that's been such a large part of Strasburg's history, and that's very important to the town."
The sports medicine programs at the high schools in the area have been very successful and very beneficial to the students.
They also can help the students figure out if it's the avenue they want to take in college and what to expect.
"[Kirsten and I are] both interested in athletic training and physical therapy," Taylor said. "It's like a sneak peak at our future career before we spend money on a degree that we don't want."
Contact Tommy Keeler Jr. at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org