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Keeping them safe on the field

Athletic trainers key part of high school sports health

August 31, 2010
By CHRISTOPHER DIEM Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE - They walk the sidelines at local sporting events with players and coaches and their presence is often crucial to the safety and well-being of those playing.

They're certified athletic trainers and they're often on the front line when it comes to treating sports injuries at games.

"During a game, that's when obviously you've got kids going full out and we do see incidents, where, for instance in basketball maybe it's a knee that goes out or in soccer, a concussion," said Jamie Tuma, athletic coordinator for Marquette High School Athletics. "To have somebody there on the spot when that happens is peace of mind for the district, peace of mind for the parents."

Article Photos

Mark Stonerock, a certified athletic trainer for U.P. Sports Medicine, wraps Marquette Redmen's Adam Gannon’s finger at a recent football game. (Journal photo by Danielle Lehto)

Mark Stonerock is a certified athletic trainer with U.P. Sports Medicine, a subsidiary of Marquette General Hospital. Stonerock and other athletic trainers volunteer at local sporting events.

"I will go out before the event, and any preventative measures, taping, strapping, wrapping, stretching, I'll do that before the event and then I'm there in case any injuries happen during the event," he said. "I'll deal with those as they happen. And then any rehabilitation after an injury, if that's necessary."

Tuma said athletic trainers deal with a range of injuries, both big and small. For example, she said an athlete was hit with a shot-put in the spring. The injury was not serious and didn't require stitches.

Fact Box

"I will go out before the event, and any preventative measures, taping, strapping, wrapping, stretching, I'll do that before the event and then I'm there in case any injuries happen during the event."

- Mark Stonerock, certified athletic trainer, U.P. Sports Medicine

"You want someone there who can make that distinction - is this an emergency where we need to send them in right away or is this something we can take care of by cleaning it up and putting a bandage on it?" Tuma said.

Stonerock said football has the most injuries due to the number of participants. But per athletic event, he said hockey has the most even though those injuries are usually things a player can come back quickly from.

He said he sees a lot of injuries during the start of the season and advised young people to continue exercising even during the off-season.

"At this age in high school, kids tend to feel like they're invincible so they'll go through the entire off-season or the summer not doing anything. And if they would just maintain a certain degree of fitness and not expect to just come in and be at top form - so a lot of the injuries we see are associated with not being in shape at the start," Stonerock said.

Work-out programs, especially for females, are being discussed more and more because so many young girls are tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in their knees during sports practices or events.

"They've really devised a lot of programs to try to prevent that injury in women. Generally two to three times as many girls will tear that ligament as boys," he said. "There are some issues with strength, landing technique, running technique and actual body anatomy that puts girls at a big disadvantage biomechanically. We've been trying to concentrate on that."

Another recent trend is impact testing, carried about by local doctors and neurologists.

In the program, all football players take a cognitive ability test which tests their thought process, reasoning and reaction time on a computer. They are tested before the season starts so that if they suffer a head injury or concussion they can take the test to see if they are ready to come back to play.

"They take the same test and they need to score within a certain range before they are cleared to go back and that ensures their cognitive ability, their thought process and their brain function has recovered enough so that they don't have to risk re-injury," he said.

Stonerock said he'd like to see the program expanded to include hockey and wrestling, where there tend to be a lot of head injuries.

Stonerock and Merlen Borgialli are two trainers from U.P. Sports Medicine that volunteer their time at games. Stonerock said other doctors and medical personal from the area also volunteer their time at games.

"We've actually been providing coverage to Marquette for 20 years now. The clinic I'm a part of has been donating its time to do that. We're not charging anything to the high school. We do see, in our clinic here at the medical center- kids who get hurt have the ability to just walk across the street from the high school and we'll see them on a triage basis to make sure that everything is okay, do an injury check on them free of charge."

Christopher Diem can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. His e-mail address is



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