The team behind the teams: Inside athletic training

As a Thursday night football game between the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals silently plays on the television in an empty athletic training room, Assistant Athletic Trainer Cody Owens enjoys the momentary period of silence from his office.

“You should have been here at 5 o’clock,” said Owens, one of three full-time certified athletic trainers in California Lutheran University’s Sports Medicine program. “There were probably about 40 athletes here.”

It’s 7 p.m. the night before the Kingsmen football team departs on a plane to Pacific University in Oregon for the first of two out-of-state non-conference games.

With Head Athletic Trainer Kecia Davis preparing to make the trip up north with the football team and Assistant Athletic Trainer Sam Olmon preparing for maternity leave, its Owens’ job to make sure that the show goes on during an extremely busy fall sports season.

“If you’re an athlete on a team in-season, you can come in and we’ll tape you up,” Owens said. “We have cold laser, ultrasound, phonophoresis, ice baths, hot baths, contrast baths, lots of different modalities. We’ll get you ready for practices, games, after a lift, anything.”

According to the  Cal Lutheran athletics website, the purpose of Cal Lutheran’s Sports Medicine program is to oversee the health and well-being of students. Comprised of three full-time athletic trainers, team orthopedic physicians and the on-campus Health Center, the department has individual roles in injury prevention, treatment and rehabilitation.

“If you’re injured during a practice or a game, we’ll evaluate your injury,” Owens said. “If we feel like you need to see the orthopedic doctors, they come in every Tuesday night at 5:30 p.m. If we think you need an X-ray, we’ll do some paperwork and send you over to Health Services. They’ll send you off to get your X-rays and we’ll get those back in six hours and tell you what to do moving forward.”

Sports Medicine strictly adheres to its standards of care, which extend to visiting teams as well.

“Our standard of care across every school should be when a visiting team comes to you and they don’t have an athletic trainer, you take care of whatever it is they need,” Owens said. “And if you’re working a game and someone on their team gets hurt, you take care of them because that’s the standard of care.”

Under the guidance of Cal Lutheran’s trainers, athletes also receive treatment from exercise science students who are working part-time to gain practical experience and attain the clinical proficiencies required to apply for graduate programs in athletic training, physical therapy, nursing and other health care professions.

Senior pole vaulter Jordan Wiley is one of the exercise science students who works part-time with the athletic training program.

“I work with Kecia and the football team helping with taping, injury prevention, rehab and all that stuff during practices and games,” said Wiley, who will accompany Davis on the first of two out-of-state non-conference games. “I’ve built a good relationship with Cody and Sam over the last couple years, so I see them a lot and find myself in there a lot too.”

Wiley took the preventative injury and care course taught by Davis. Wiley said the class requires 25 hours of either training room observation or helping at practices and games.

“I’ve learned a lot of tapings: ankles, wrists, thumbs, shoulder spica, Achilles, arch and a bunch more, but those are the basic ones,” Wiley said.

Davis forms a team of six to eight student athletic trainers like Wiley each week to help with home games and in-state away games.

When football season is over, Owens said that Davis will return to the main athletic training room on a full-time basis and allow the staff members to rotate coverage.

“All three of us love to do this job and love everything that has to do with athletic training,” Owens said. “We’re here at 6 a.m. and stay until 9 p.m. It’s a long day, but we try to rotate around and give each one of us a little bit of time for our families.”

Jake Gould
Reporter