Fans often see her on the sidelines watching every home game and even some of the away ones too, but Kate Weale the athletic trainer at London High school is a lot more than a spectator. She’s a trained professional assigned to the school and she takes her job of keeping student-athletes safe seriously.
“Unfortunately I think a lot of the times people just see us sitting on the sidelines waiting for something to happen, but they don’t necessarily know that I saw maybe 10 athletes before the game,” Weale said. “So a lot of people think we just sit around and don’t necessarily do a whole lot. But we do a bunch of stuff behind the scenes.”
Weale is an employee of Nationwide Children’s Hospital which has been contracted out by London City Schools to provide athletic trainers at the high school. She insists her job is much, much more than getting ice for sprains and wrapping ankles.
“I do assessments,” Weale said. “When somebody goes down, the athletic trainer is usually the one that’s running out on the field. We can refer athletes to different physicians. With the kids here at London I’ve done a good job of getting them into doing rehab. We do taping too, but I can also do braces, and get them into correct fitting braces.
“We can send them for X-rays. If I don’t think their doctor has them on the right track I can communicate with the doctor to try and get them an additional MRI or imaging. There’s a lot more than just getting ice.”
Weale, a graduate of Worthington Kilbourne High School attended Otterbein University where she played soccer for the Cardinals. Having the experience of being an athlete herself has helped her fit right in with constantly being at games.
“A lot of us have some sort of athletic background,” she said. “I’ve played soccer since I was three. I played in college and my family loves sports; baseball, football all that stuff. Any home high school event I’m here, I do travel with football. And personally I choose to go to all Ohio high school championships, I go with the London teams in the tournament as well.”
Being able to communicate effectively becomes a critical part of her job, whether its dealing with high school students, doctors or anyone else in between.
“It’s fun,” she said. “You definitely have to be a people person, you interact with so many people throughout the day. Kids, parents, athletes, coaches, teachers, so there is a lot of interaction. Never is one day the same, so for me it never gets boring. You have to be able to go with the flow as an athletic trainer.”
The biggest difference now as opposed to someone who did the job of athletic trainer at the high school level years ago is the emphasis on concussions and how to deal with an athlete who may have one.
“It plays a big role in what we do,” Weale said. “A lot of it is about education to both the parents and the athletes. The coaches are required to get education on them, so it is more on explaining to the athletes and their parents of what a concussion is and how to deal with them.”
Weale said they use a five-step program at London when dealing with possible head injuries and concussions. She said that procedure isn’t always the most popular with those that either want to get back on the field or want an athlete back for the next game.
“Here we do a five-step progression on getting back to play,” she said. “When I first got here it took some adjusting for some people. It’s become more like there’s a routine now.
“If you do step one today there’s a full 24 hours before we do step two. Some people want to combine steps one and two on one day and then do steps two and three the next day, but it doesn’t work like that.”
To get into the athletic training field a person needs a minimum of four years of schooling and must pass a national test as well as a State of Ohio license. After earning the title, athletic trainers also have to take continuing education classes every couple of years or so to stay licensed.
So while you may see Weale or someone like her grabbing a bag of ice for an injured athlete or tending to someone who got hurt during a game, know that they are qualified to be out there.
“I think people should know that in general athletic trainers, the two words together are health care professionals,” she said. “We’re not just people sitting on the sidelines, there are other things we do. Yes, we’re people that can keep your athlete off the field, but we’re also people that can help keep your athlete on the field by taping an ankle or helping them through rehab.”
Chris Miles can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 18 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.