Athletic training technicians support athletes on and off the field

Many are familiar with the injuries that plague college athletes. Long hours pushing the body to its limits can impose a taxing physical burden. That’s where athletic trainers come in: working behind the scenes to support the health and fitness of Arizona student-athletes.

“Athletic training is part of the allied heath professions. We are responsible or we cover anyone that is considered an active athlete or an active patient,” said Douglas Contaoi, an associate athletic trainer for the UA. “We’re involved in evaluation, prevention, treatment and management of athletic-related injuries.”

While athletic trainers are most frequently associated with tape, elastic bandages and ice bags, which are all valuable tools of the trade, they also utilize a number of different tools to help heal athletes.

“In the training room we have different therapeutic modalities,” Contaoi said. “One is the electrical stimulation … for pain control or muscle-spasm reduction. We have therapeutic ultrasound, which is a deep-heating effect for soft tissue injuries. We have different soft-tissue mobilization tools. … We have a massage tool called the DMS. We also have a cold laser device that is shown to help improve soft-tissue injuries.”

The athletic training program not only supports athletes, it also provides opportunities for undergraduate students to gain hands-on experience working in the athletic training technicians program.

“[Our program] is a gateway for people to figure out if this is a viable career for them—not only athletic training, specifically, but any type of … network within sports medicine,” Contaoi, the coordinator for the program, said.

Athletic training technicians have a range of responsibilities during both practice and in the training room. During practice, techs set up coolers and water racks and provide basic medical treatment, including stretching, taping, and the provision of basic first aid and ice bags. In the training room, techs assist athletic trainers with treatments and injury maintenance.

This experience really gives students a chance to apply some of the material they learn in the classroom.

“This semester I am in Physiology 201, and we have covered the skeletal and muscular system,” said Bradley Lewis, a sophomore studying pre-physiology and molecular and cellular biology and an athletic training technician. “It is truly satisfactory to come into the training room and realize I actually understand what the trainers are talking about and why they do things they do. It has helped me understand evaluations—tests that are used to determine what is causing the pain or injury of the athlete—since I have learned what types of actions certain muscles [are] used for.”

Lewis said that not just PSIO 201 has helped him succeed in the athletic training technicians program, but biology classes as well.

While most sports fans look forward to the outcome of the next game, a dedicated team working to maintain athletes’ health throughout the season focuses on injury prevention and recovery, or, as Contaoi said, the “bookends” of sports.


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