The California Aggie shadowed one of UC Davis football’s athletic trainers
The role of the athletic trainer is one that many people don’t think about when watching their favorite sport. The Aggie had the recent chance to follow Matthew Davey, one of the assistant athletic trainers for the UC Davis men’s football team, to observe what he does every day as a trainer.
The day started at 5:30 a.m. at Aggie Stadium in the athletic training room. Injured players were among the few in the room, stretching out their injuries and getting ready for conditioning training. Then it was down to the field in the cold, windy and rainy weather that felt as if a monsoon were about to overtake the stadium.
Davey dictated different exercises for different players depending on their injuries. Some of the players were designated to run the stadium steps, some to jog around the field and some to do minor exercises in order to ensure they were staying minimally active. At about 7 a.m., it was back inside to dry off and finish the morning. Because the football team is currently in the off-season, the team is limited to two conditioning sessions a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Following the early morning session, The Aggie was able to conduct an email interview and ask Davey about his profession as an athletic trainer and what it entails.
What made you want to get into the field of sports medicine?
I have always had an interest in sports medicine, initially in becoming a doctor but I became more aware of the field of athletic training in high school when I met the athletic trainer at my school. When I got to college it didn’t take me long to decide that going to medical school was not something I was interested in. I started the athletic training internship as a 2nd year and I knew that was the field for me. I have the best seat in the house for games that I work and I spend my day working with athletes and around sports. Athletes are willing and able to work very hard at getting better from an injury and at improving their performance, this makes my job much more rewarding because my patient works just as hard as I do at getting better and I can see the immediate fruits of our labor in the athlete’s success on the field.
In a nutshell, what are the things your job entails in season and off season?
The majority of my day, both in-season and off-season is committed to rehabilitation of injuries. We have all manner of musculoskeletal injuries from basic ankle sprains to surgically repaired knees and shoulders. Every year we get an injury that we, collectively, have never seen before. That challenge both in evaluation of that injury as well as learning how to properly rehab that injury is one of the parts of my job that I love. Rehab/Prevention accounts for 75% of my time, the rest of the time is on the field covering practice where we are on hand in the event there is an injury either during practice or during a game.
You mentioned some new training programs you put together recently. Could you just briefly say what they are and a brief description about what they do as far as your line of work?
We are always developing new preventive programs geared toward keeping athletes injury free. Currently we are utilizing a yoga-based flexibility and balance program combined with a core strength squat-training program. I have used a lot of yoga and pilates-based exercise programs in the past as preventive programs.
Do you also handle administrative work as well as the physical training aspect?
The administrative side of the job takes up a lot of time. Outside of normal day-to-day documentation of injuries and rehab notes I am personally responsible for maintaining our emergency response equipment. As a sports medicine staff we have 8 AEDs located at various sports facilities and in the athletic training rooms. These are located so that no event either practice or game goes on without quick access to an AED should it be needed. It is my responsibility to check all the AEDs on a monthly basis to ensure each is in working order. We also have oxygen tanks, spine boards, blood pressure cuffs and other emergency equipment that I am responsible for maintaining on a regular basis.
Your profession seems one that you put a lot of time into. Is that safe to say?
The role of the athletic trainer in the athletics department is to manage the physical well-being of the student-athlete, and to a certain extent the mental well-being as well. Whether we are handling the care of the student-athlete or ensuring that they are referred to the proper people to handle that care, it is all our responsibility. The players understand this so they will contact us first any time they have a health concern. I have been called at 2am by a player who was in a bike accident on his way home from the library, we’ve been called when a player punched a wall out of frustration late at night. Pretty much any time a player is feeling sick they call us first to see if they should see a doctor — regardless of the time of night.
What are the most rewarding parts about this profession?
By far the most rewarding part of my profession is seeing the athlete I have worked with go through their rehab process, get back on the field and be successful again. After all the time and energy is invested, to see them get back on the field and succeed makes it all worthwhile.
What are some of the negative aspects of this profession?
One negative side is the toll it takes on family and personal life. With the time we spend at work, and that we often spend on work while at home, family time can suffer. When we play on the road I will be away from my family 3-4 weekends a month. In season we have a game or practice or have rehab 7 days a week, and can spend as much as 16 hours a day at work during Fall camp. It truly makes me value the time I have with my family, and it makes very thankful that my wife supports me in what I do.
What is one thing that you feel most individuals assume or don’t know about sports medicine that you want to clarify?
We do so much more than just tape and ice athletes. We are all Master’s degree educated and have many years of experience and taping and icing, while important, are actually a very small aspect of what we do. We put in an enormous amount of time and energy maintaining education in the most current trends and knowledge in the sports medicine and rehab fields. We truly care about the health and well-being and success of the student-athletes we work with.
*This interview has been edited for length.
Written by: Ryan Bugsch — email@example.com