As the world of sports continues to grow, the need for athletic trainers has also jumped.
The result has seen a spike in more high school-aged students aiming for a career in athletic training. Trainers also provide a safety net and medicical expertise, especially at the high school level.
At Churchill County High School, Melissa Osterhage, the school’s licensed athletic trainer, teaches two sports medicine classes in addition to her duties of working with the athletes.
This month, which is National Athletic Trainers Month, also provides an opportunity for Osterhage and her colleagues to spread the word about their profession. Her Sports Medicine I class will embark to Reno for a statewide competition on the basics of athletic training.
“It’s just an opportunity for us, certified athletic trainers, to promote to the school and our community what we do,” Osterhage said. “They (second-year class) are putting together a Power-Point presentation … going to the health, science and P.E. classes. It also helps them with public speaking. This group (the first-year students) are going to put together an active, hands-on workshop of prevent of athletic injuries.”
Osterhage’s resume includes 10 years in Reno at an outpatient orthopedic physical therapy clinic, and was outreached for two years as an athletic trainer at Reno High School and three years at McQueen. She earned a bachelor’s degree in sports medicine and athletic training from Montana Tech University and a master’s in exercise science at California (Pa.) University.
While her class sizes are small, Osterhage said the program will be re-organized next year to one class and an athletic training club. In class, students will learn about anatomy, stretching techniques, preventative care, supplement use, nutrition and the function of muscles and bones to name a few.
“The class focuses on anatomy and we take each body part and what can happen to that area,” Osterhage said.
The club, meanwhile, will consist of students shadowing Osterhage in the training room, at practice and games. Four levels, structured by Osterhage, will provide the student trainers with more detailed knowledge of how to treat and diagnose specific injuries, although Osterhage is the only one who may treat a severely injured athlete.
In addition to the restricted class and new club, the sports medicine program lost steam because many students thought it was only for athletes, which is not the case, Osterhage said. As a result of her lobbying the students, she said more interest in the class is circulating for next year.
“The smaller classes get a lot more hands-on,” Osterhage said. “I think there was a big communication gap … that you didn’t have to be an athlete to take the class. Word of mouth has spread.”
For senior Shelby Lawry, who is in the Sports Medicine I class, she said this provides an opportunity to begin her academic pursuit of a career in athletic training.
Lawry, who also plays softball for the Greenwave, has been along Osterhage’s side during the fall and winter seasons learning how to tape, brace and handle patients.
“I took anatomy last year and it got me started,” Lawry said. “I took Ms. O’s class and that’s when I really started to fall in love with it. It’s not easy, but it’s fun.”
Next year, Lawry will move on to the University of Nevada, Reno, where she plans to become a student trainer. Osterhage’s connections at the school provided Lawry with a chance to start student-training during her freshman year.
“This is the job I want to do,” she added. “They have a student program and I will start right away. It’s intensified, my drive, to be an athletic trainer.”