April 22, 2002 11:00 pm
NOT A WATER GIRL: Mountain Valley Therapy and La Grande ATC Erin Long massages the knots out of Lindsey Carmichael's thigh in the high school training room. (Observer photos/RAENELLE KWOCK).
NOT A WATER GIRL: Mountain Valley Therapy and La Grande ATC Erin Long massages the knots out of Lindsey Carmichael's thigh in the high school training room. (Observer photos/RAENELLE KWOCK).

By Raenelle Kwock

Observer Staff Writer

Here in La Grande, four certified athletic trainers or ATC — Betsy Rawls, Erin Long, April Box and Stana Landon — work. The four agree no one knows what they do.

"I just want people to know that we are knowledgeable in the field at recognizing injuries, preventing injuries, also first aid and emergency care," Long said, who works at Mountain Valley Therapy and La Grande High School as an ATC.

People may think an ATC is a personal trainer, but that is untrue.

"I think a lot of people have really no idea what an athletic trainer does or how much training we have to go through, really," Landon said. She is the EOU assistant ATC.

"When you say athletic trainer, a lot of people just assume that it's like a personal trainer rather than somebody who's kind of involved in the medical aspect of what goes on here."

The misconception of an ATC only giving water still exists.

"Even my parents still think I'm a glorified water girl," Box said with a laugh. She is the EOU head ATC.

Water is given to hydrate athletes.

"We do provide water for athletes to keep them properly hydrated, so they don't get injured, but we're not water girls and guys," Long said.

We need to pass a very rigorous national exam, Rawls said. She is the certified athletic trainer in the rehabilitation therapy department at Grande Ronde Hospital.

The National Athletic Trainers' Association Board of Certification, Inc. administers the exam. It consists of three sections: written (multiple choice questions), practical (evaluation of pyschomotor skills) and simulation (evaluation of clinical and decision-making skills).

"Athletic trainers are jack of all trades," Box said. She also teaches an EOU athletic training seminar. "You have to know a lot of things from skin irritations, to taking care of a Band-Aid, to a broken fracture, dislocated knee cap, just the whole range, we are responsible for, so we have to know a lot."

The spring is not as hectic, as the fall, at La Grande and EOU. An ATC does a lot besides attending games.

Box and Landon put in on an average day in the fall about 80 hours a week.

On a typical day, Box and Landon start at 5 a.m. for practices or conditioning. Box teaches at 10 a.m. The training room opens at 1 p.m.

On average, they get close to 150 athletes coming in to get an ultrasound, taped, massaged and stretched, Box said.

Both get the water ready and head to practice and do rehab work with athletes who blew out their knees, shoulders or backs.

We work on limited exercises, so these athletes are still with the team and we are working with them, Box said.

Both tend to injuries right away. After practice, they clean up, finish giving athletes more ice, tape and let the teams settle down. Both get home about 8 p.m.

Since Long is the only ATC at La Grande, she has to go where the sports are at higher risk, so she has to prioritize and disperse her time that way.

"It gets crazy to stay organized especially in the fall when there's a lot of athletes that need a lot of care," she said.

A typical day for Long begins at the clinic in the morning and at La Grande in the afternoon four days a week.

At the clinic, Long works with physical therapists with those going through rehab after surgery, or need general muscle strengthening from a muscle sprain. She evaluates injuries and tapes before practice at La Grande.

Mountain Valley also provides an outreach program to high schools. Long usually goes to Imbler, Cove and Union all on one day of the week.

Rawls is in charge of the Community Wellness Program at Grande Ronde geared to preventing injuries and diseases.

In addition, Rawls sees patients, helps physical therapists and assists physical trainers.

Rawls sees a wide variety of patients, from those who have knee and hip replacements to those with back injuries and are post-stroke.

She sees people who come for strengthening, deconditioning and exercise.

All four enjoy their work settings.

Rawls likes working at the hospital because it is more scheduled and organized.

Long has the "best of both worlds" because she works with different age populations at the clinic and high school.

"The reward is like if an athlete has been hurt, and you help them through that," Box said. "You make them stronger, faster, better, that's the reward. Just to be around their energy is pretty much of a high for me."

"I enjoy being able to teach the student trainers," Landon said.

"I enjoy managing the training room in general, working with coaches and problem solving — for an athlete to come in for me to be able to figure out what's wrong with him or her and what to do to fix him or her, I like the challenge."