“My job as the head athletic trainer is to manage and take care of all the health care needs for our athletes. Here at football specifically, we have five athletic trainers that are here full time just for football, but all of our sports have their own athletic trainers. When a guy gets injured, when a guy is hurt, when a guy is sick, anything that has to do with him from a health care standpoint, they come see us. Then we triage them and put them in a place that they need to be to get taken care of; kind of like a liaison between the athlete, the coaches and the medical staff.
“Here we have five athletic trainers. In addition to that, we have about 35 different physicians of all different specialties. So, anything that can happen to an athlete while they’re here at the University, we’ll take care of that.”
HOW CLOSELY DO THE ATHLETIC TRAINERS AT SOUTH CAROLINA WORK WITH ALL OF THE OTHER HEALTHCARE ENTITIES PROVIDED FOR STUDENT-ATHLETES?
“On a day-to-day basis, it’s constant communicating with all of our entities. We’re the hub of the wheel, and then there are the spokes going out to all the other aspects, whether it’s talking with our strength and conditioning staff multiple times a day, talking about various guys and how they’re feeling that day, what injuries they might have, and where they are in their rehabilitation process so that they’re limited in the weight room and we know what’s going on.
“You go to the mental health aspect of it, identifying guys who need mental health help. We have various things we do to help screen them and help identify things.
“When we go to our physicians, and if we have an orthopedic injury for instance, we talk with our team physician and get them in, get them X-rays, get an MRI, getting them seen; it’s constant communication with all of those different parties.”
HOW DOES SOUTH CAROLINA’S HEALTH CARE FOR STUDENT-ATHLETES GO ABOVE WHAT MOST PEOPLE WOULD EXPECT?
“It’s a comprehensive approach. It’s a lot different from what these athletes are seeing in high school. It’s something we educate them about constantly when they get here. Nobody can really understand the breadth of it until they actually get into the program.
“Every year when we have freshmen come in, I explain to them that we’re kind of like the moms and dads here. When the guy is hurt, or he has a problem, he comes to us and then we work to help him get better and help him resolve that problem.
“With this being a one-stop shop, we have the best of the best in here. That’s one thing that daily we are looking at; what is the best way that we can help this guy and the most advanced health care we can give this person. We have access to the best physicians in the world.
“We do a lot with collecting data on these guys: how fast they run, how fast they cut, how many yards they run in a day, and tracking all of that stuff.”
HOW DO YOU USE SOME OF THE LATEST TECHNOLOGY FOR INJURY PREVENTION?
“Looking at the data aspect of it, the catapult system monitors the guys with their mileage and with their speed. I’m looking at it from a health care stand point and watching trends on that to see if they decrease in some of those areas.
“We can look at how hard they’re pushing off with their right leg versus their left leg, and when things change unexpectedly, I can go to the player and ask if something is bothering them. Maybe they haven’t said anything to us because they don’t think it’s a big deal, but I’m watching it change in the data, so I can identify something before it becomes a big problem.
“We also have baselines on various positions. If a guy reaches over a certain number of yards, then there is an increased incidence of injury. So, what we do through our training and our practice and so forth is to keep them below that because we’ve found they’re going to get hurt if they go above that number.
“In addition to monitoring, cryotherapy (use of low temperatures in treating injury) is a big thing right now. We have a big room in our new facility just for cryotherapy. If I can prevent an injury before it even occurs, then we’re way down the road in helping the guy in becoming a better athlete.
“We have a float tank in our new facility as well. It’s a sensory deprivation area where light and sound and all of those inputs are taken away and your floating in some water. That helps in recovery.
“Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is something we use daily with the guys from a recovery standpoint and a healing standpoint. There’s a lot of research behind using super-oxygenated air to help them get better.
“We’re not wanting for a lot of things here.”
WHAT IS THE PROTOCOL FOR CONCUSSIONS?
“We monitor the guys with the hits that they have every day. We’re on the cutting edge with research in being able to talk to some of the smartest guys when it comes to concussions. Then we’re able to apply that to our guys, both before a concussion happens and once a concussion is sustained and doing the rehabilitation with them. We’re classifying concussions a lot differently than we were 20 years ago and doing the appropriate rehab to help them get better.”
WHAT SETS SOUTH CAROLINA’S STAFF APART?
“Our knowledge. Our communication. Our availability. We’re always available for the guys. We have some of the brightest minds around, and we’re able to talk to those people, get information, and bring it all in. That’s what sets us apart.”