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Joint committee: Athletes put their trust in trainers

Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson
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Sports are defined by the athletes who play them. The players who go out and give their all for the joy of the game and the thrill of the win. They play for that small slice of glory that will never fade from memory.The Hail Mary to win state. The last-second shot to win in overtime. The record-breaking time on the track.These and countless others are the moments that all young athletes dream about.But when an injury forces them to the sidelines, they put their health, and their faith into the hands of athletic trainers – certified healers who diagnose, tape, bandage and treat injuries to help get athletes back into the game.

“Every kid wants to play, and we know that,” said Rifle High School athletic trainer Jackie Underberg. “Our job is to get the kids back on the field as quickly as possible.”But there are times when that knee ligament is torn, when that bone is broken, that ankle is sprained or another injury is sustained – and players cannot return to the game for weeks or months.”The hardest part is telling them they can’t play,” said Marni Barton, the athletic trainer for Glenwood Springs High School. “Seeing the look on their face and they start to cry and it makes me want to cry.”Barton, Underberg and fellow area prep trainers Andy Henrichs of Roaring Fork and Steve Urban of Coal Ridge, all competed as athletes growing up. Knowing the passion for sports and having felt the fuel that powers the competitive spirit, the athletic trainers understand the heartbreaking realization of what it feels like to stay on the sideline.”We do so much patching and putting back together and getting people back in as best we can and it’s hard to sometimes show the reality of it – that sometimes there are things you can’t get back for,” Barton said. “It’s our job to take care of them and it’s hard to believe there’s things we can’t do.”

There are so many things athletic trainers can do to quickly get athletes on the road to recovery, but in order to correctly evaluate injuries and coordinate an appropriate treatment plan, the athletes have to be completely honest about their injuries.They must be thorough in explaining how they hurt themselves, what it feels like and the limitations they have. Athletes have to believe athletic trainers are there to help and get them back, not take them out. It’s a process that doesn’t happen overnight.”It always takes a little while, but now that I know a lot of the kids, they’re great,” Henrichs said. “They get along with me really well and it makes my job easier because they trust me. They feel comfortable telling me when they are hurt.”The athletes also must trust the trainer’s diagnoses and follow the appropriate steps for a complete recovery. After the athlete goes through the rehabilitation process, they can get back to the game. And the athletic trainers can stand back and smile, knowing they helped get them there.”(The most gratifying part of the job) is seeing a kid that was hurt and screaming and crying in tears,” Urban said. “Then to see him through the injury and through the rehab and seeing them back on the field – playing 110 percent like nothing ever happened.”



From taping ankles, to icing shoulders, to educating athletes on conditioning routines and strengthening methods to prevent injuries, it’s the smaller, everyday treatments athletic trainers spend the most time on.But even with the hundreds of ankles Barton tapes, the procedure never seems monotonous. In fact, the anchor strips and figure eights she meticulously weaves around ankles are as artistic as a painter’s brushstrokes.”I love taping. People say ‘Don’t you get tired of taping ankles?’ But I love taping,” Barton said. “In a way, it is my form of art. You can put your own unique spin on it and it is my way of contributing to the artistic community through tape.”Outside of the medical aspect of their jobs, athletic trainers form a strong bond with their athletes. It’s not only a major part of their job, it is their favorite part of the job.”It is a lot of fun to work with the kids,” Henrichs said. “They always keep each day interesting.””The kids are great,” added Marni Barton, Glenwood’s athletic trainer. “They make it fun to come to work. I get to laugh at them every day.”After seeing athletes play sports throughout their high school careers, oftentimes competing year-round in multiple sports, the athletic trainers and athletes can get very close. So close, that the pairs still see each other even after the athlete has graduated.”Standing on the football field during the Glenwood game, (on Sept. 22) I had a half dozen former Rifle athletes come up and hug me,” Underberg said. “I’ve earned their respect. I’ve got a niche and it’s rewarding.” – Post Independent sports writer Phil Sandoval contributed to this story

Andy Henrichs, athletic trainer for Roaring Fork High SchoolHow long: 3 yearsGraduated from: University of Wisconsin, La CrosseWhy he does it: “I played sports in high school and just enjoyed that and really enjoyed medicine and science and the two just fit together really well.”



How long: 8 yearsGraduated from: undergrad – University of California at Fullerton. graduate school – Indiana State UniversityWhy she does it: “I signed up for (a training) class my junior year in high school and I was hooked. I am in love with it. If I couldn’t be a pro athlete, it was the only other thing I wanted to do.”

How long: 2 yearsGraduated from: Springfield University, Springfield, Mass.Why he does it: “I love these kids here. All these kids are great. I do have an attachment with them and it’s also cool to see them grow from year-to-year.”

How long: 3 yearsGraduated from: University of Wisconsin, Eau ClaireWhy she does it: “I was an athlete through high school and in college. But I knew when I got hurt and was working with athletic trainers, it was kind of fun and it was a way to keep in athletics without being an athlete myself. This was a way to still keep the athlete part of me alive and carry it through into a different role.”


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