By UNIVERSITY RELATIONS
March is National Athletic Training Month, and March 2021 has been one of the busiest ever for athletic trainers at Fort Hays State University.
As primary care providers for FHSU student-athletes participating in varsity sports, athletic trainers (ATs) are responsible for the care of student-athletes in 16 men’s and women’s varsity sports. In addition to providing medical services for the 10 athletic teams that regularly compete during the spring semester, the eight-member AT staff along with the two-member AT faculty have also been busy caring for fall sports athletes whose seasons were pushed until this spring because of the coronavirus pandemic.
This year – like no other – the ATs have welcomed the help of athletic training students completing supervised clinical rotations.
“It’s definitely been all hands-on deck this semester,” said Dr. David Fitzhugh, director of the Athletic Training program. “Along with all the normal services for injury prevention and care, there have been COVID-19 testing protocols, contact tracing, quarantine/isolation monitoring, and extra cleaning procedures. With all the additional sports currently active – and extra responsibilities – this spring, we would be having a harder time getting everything done without our athletic training students’ contributions during their supervised rotations.”
Matt Harris, a junior from Wichita, is thankful for the additional educational opportunities.
“I appreciate getting to work with all sorts of athletes in a variety of sports,” Harris said. “Injuries are different for different sports, and the wide knowledge base of treating different injuries is invaluable.”
Harris, set to graduate with his bachelor’s degree in May 2022, has worked with the ATs in five different Tiger sports and has done a clinical rotation at a local high school as well. Even before the pandemic, Harris felt he was gaining some of the best real-life experiences available.
“The opportunities here at Fort Hays State have given me incredible hands-on experience,” Harris said. He gave as an example the difference between testing ligaments and muscles of his peers in a classroom setting to performing the same procedure on an injured athlete.
“It’s going to be a different scenario with every patient,” he said. “The opportunity to test a torn ligament on an injured athlete, as opposed to a ligament on a healthy classmate, helps our evaluation skills tremendously.”
The opportunity for hands-on experience early on in the program is what drew Josh Walker to FHSU.
Walker, a graduate student from Windsor, Colo., transferred to Fort Hay State from Brown Mackie College in Salina, and the AT program helped him fulfill his love of sports and a passion for helping others.
He earned his bachelor of science degree in athletic training in 2020 and is now pursuing his master’s in Health and Human Performance. “I enjoy helping people, and this is a perfect mixture of helping someone while participating in sports in some way,” he said. “It’s really rewarding to watch athletes come back from injuries, knowing you helped them in some way to accomplish that goal of getting back into action.”