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Davis, California

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

The wheels that keep the sports world running

The sports medicine internship at UC Davis assists injured athletes

By KATHERIN RAYGOZA — sports@theaggie.org

    Athletic trainers can be one of the most essential building blocks of an athlete’s life. Without them, athletes and teams may not compete to the best of their ability. 

According to SPINE-health, athletic trainers study sports medicine which “is an area of medical practice concerned with the treatment of injuries resulting from athletic activities.” Athletic trainers must be certified to “offer rehabilitative exercises to help athletes regain strength and also develop exercise plans to prevent any future injury.” 

This type of physician practices sports medicine which means they turn their attention to all sport-related services. These are health care providers that often are the first ones to tend a player’s injury on the field of play. 

     Many colleges and professional sports utilize athletic trainers to aid athletes through their medical needs. This may include preventative measures, such as conditioning and injury prevention, as well as treatments such as osteopathic manipulation — which can be suction cups or a massage — and rehabilitation. 

An athletic trainer — not to be confused with a physical therapist — works specifically with athletes to help prevent injuries. Although an athletic trainer and physical therapist both assist people to regain or maintain mobility and recover from their injuries, a physical therapist works with patients and usually works closely with those who suffer injuries from illnesses or accidents.

Lisa Varnum has been the co-director of the UC Davis sports medicine internship program for 32 years.

“The goal of a physical therapist is to return someone to activities of daily living,” Varnum said. “The goal of an athletic trainer or intern [at UC Davis] is to return the athlete into an elite level of athletics Division 1.” 

    At UC Davis, the sports medicine program operates a year-round internship that welcomes undergraduate students who wish to pursue a career in sports medicine. Their services include, “treatment and rehabilitation of athletic injuries, providing protective equipment/supplies, assisting with nutritional and psychological concerns, being a site facilitator for the NCAA Drug Testing Program, serving in a liaison position with medical personnel and maintaining appropriate medical records.”    

UC Davis’s sports medicine team is composed of a group of full-time athletic trainers, a full-time physician, about 15 volunteer physicians and about 35 interns. This department provides an encouraging environment to cultivate and expand the knowledge of students with hands-on experience that will serve important purposes for their futures.

Students must first undergo a process that includes three phases and can take up to a full academic quarter before they become interns. Phase one is completing an application in fall quarter, phase two consists of having a total of 15 observation hours “shadowing” and asking questions to the staff members. The third and final phase requires an interview with the directors of the internship.

Although this may be a lengthy process, this is the time to show what the internship encompasses. Once a student becomes an intern, they are assigned a specific sport in which they must attend all games to assist the athletic trainer. The reason why athletic trainers and interns attend games and practices is because “they are the number one contact, medically, for all of our student athletes,” according to Varnum.

It is extremely important for a medical and certified professional to be on the field or court as soon as an athlete becomes injured. In order for an athlete to receive the proper care, a medical physician would have the right knowledge for the steps that should be taken next. 

“For you as a student, I’ll just use an example,” said Varnum. “If you get hurt, you can go to the student health center and you can see a doctor. Maybe you get x-rays and they refer you to physical therapy. Then a week or two later you might see a physical therapist, but you only visit them once or twice a week. We see the athletes at time zero, and we can see them once or twice a day, seven days a week. Usually, the student interns are with them.”

The reason why athletic trainers are an important part of an athlete’s life is because if an injury isn’t given immediate attention or the proper care, the athlete is at high risk of being injured longer and missing more time — something teams can’t afford in a season that moves fast. 

“What you do, typically, in the first 24-72 hours can determine how long an athlete’s injury is going to take,” said Vernum.

Athletic trainers and volunteer student interns are a critical component that contribute to sports at UC Davis. Not having athletic trainers at the university or the sports world would be like not having a doctor for every day activities. 

Written by: Katherin Raygoza — sports@theaggie.org


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