Look around the sideline of any athletic event and you will almost always find an athletic trainer present. However, most people might not know exactly what an athletic trainer does. It is this trainer’s responsibility to make sure the competing athletes stay healthy, and to care for them if anything unfortunate happens.
This is not the only responsibility a trainer has. Susan Lew, head athletic trainer at University of Wisconsin-Stout, says that they “wear many hats.” These hats include anything from pregame wrist taping to helping athletes figure out where their insurance will allow them to go for specialized treatment.
“[We] work with the prevention, care, first aid treatment and on-field treatment of athletic injuries or active injuries,” Lew said.
Stout has two full-time athletic trainers, as well as two trainers who are contracted through Mayo Clinic Health System, occasionally. Lew, head athletic trainer, will start her 18th year at Stout in October.
Jessica Schlafke is the assistant athletic trainer for Stout, but Lew says that their responsibilities are virtually the same, excluding the extra administrative duties Lew has.
Lew and Schlafke, along with the Mayo trainers, rotate shifts to attend all home varsity athletic events. The Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) requires that they attend all away football games as well because of the contact heavy nature of the sport.
Lew says that Schlafke wanted to work with the football team as soon as she was hired.
“That was a tough decision for me, but I’ve [covered the sport] for a lot of years, so she took it over,” Lew said.
Lew said that being an athletic trainer is a very fulfilling career, but that does not mean it’s without its drawbacks.
She added that the hardest part of being an athletic trainer, especially at a university, is the long hours they work. When asked about her favorite part of the job, she cited the relationships that she gets to build with the athletes.
“Some athletic trainers would say [their favorite part of the job is] seeing a player get back to playing after being injured,’ and that is rewarding, but I think for me it’s seeing the kids come in as freshman and mature.”
Lew advises that people attempt to pay attention to what’s going on behind the scenes at an athletic event next time they attend, as it could possibly spark a new career interest for them.