Behind every athlete is a sports trainer

Shortly after a collision, a soccer player is spotted laying on the ground with a pained expression on his face. Within seconds, athletic trainer Faith Villanueva and the sports medicine team sprint toward him. The team evaluates the lower-body injury and carries him off the field.

Sports medicine encompasses many different types of health professionals that deal with the physically active population. Taught by Villanueva and sports medicine teacher Elva Salcido, students gain insight into the medical field, whether it be in the classroom or on the sidelines during a sports game.

“I love my job and [the sports medicine] field so much. I have a chance to teach the students about the field, more specifically students who are passionate about health care, because they’re working toward being professionals,” Villanueva said. “I can’t imagine being a part of a better school. We have really great resources, support and students.”

The course is a three-year pathway that is divided into three different classes based on a student’s grade level: Introduction to Sports Physical Therapy, Advanced Sports Physical Therapy and Therapeutic Exercise and Rehabilitation for sophomores, juniors and seniors, respectively.

“I feel like [the three years] taught me a lot,” Therapeutic Exercise and Rehabilitation student senior Gary Hsu said. ““I feel like it taught me a lot. It let me connect with my teachers, and it showed me the professional side of sports medicine.”

In the first course, students become first aid Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) certified by practicing the procedure on a CPR mannequin. After learning the procedures, they then speak to an American Red Cross instructor to get approved for a two-year certification. This allows students to apply for jobs revolving around the athletic and medical field.

“My favorite part about teaching my classes is that I get to see my students find their passion. I see the light bulb go off,” Salcido said. “Essentially, I’m teaching them to help other people, and that feeling of helping someone get better — being able to pass that along to students is the most rewarding.”

Advanced students are taught assessment procedures and how to evaluate orthopedic injuries. These procedures include history assessments, in which students are taught about medical questionnaires, and Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) assessments, in which students are taught to perform tests on the knee.

“I definitely love [the advanced class]. It’s a good experience for me. I ask ‘How does this work?’ especially since I want to do this as a career in the future,” Advanced Sports Physical Therapy student senior Ava Alejo said.

Therapeutic Rehabilitation students learn about the healing processes of the human body. This allows them to learn techniques such as massaging, stretches and heat therapies and learn how these techniques help injuries recover.

“I personally really enjoy the [Therapeutic Rehabilitation] class because I [like] sports, and it’s a good opportunity to step out of your comfort zone,” Therapeutic Exercise and Rehabilitation student senior Gaby Vatkin said. “You just always have to have an open mind to criticism.”

Students involved in sports medicine are mainly taught through hands-on learning. Palpation, a practice in which students physically use their hands to identify bones and ligaments, is one way students are able to learn about human anatomy. Students are also taught massaging, in which they locate knots in a tissue and apply techniques to treat them. By recognizing human anatomy, students are better prepared to identify and tend to injuries.

“I fell in love with [the lab activities] because it’s hands-on. My favorite part of it is how interactive you are [with other people],” Alejo said. “It’s good practice and exercise to work with other people.”

Field trips to an anatomy cadaver lab, Mt. San Antonio College (SAC) and the Regional Occupational Program (ROP) Campus, also help students gain insight into the medical field. In an anatomy cadaver lab, Advanced Sports Physical Therapy students see the human anatomy in real life, allowing them to better understand how the human body functions. Visiting Mt. SAC and the ROP Campus gives students the chance to consult health officials, radiologists and emergency medical technicians.

“I believe students appreciate any time outside of the classrooms,” Villanueva said. “But to make it relevant to what we’re learning — I think that’s the most important [about field trips.] They can see the connection between what we’re teaching in the classroom and what exists out there in the real world.”

During sports games, the primary focus for Introduction to Sports Physical Therapy students is to observe from the stands and familiarize themselves with the sports medicine field. As for advanced students, they work alongside Villanueva and practice basic first aid. Therapeutic Rehabilitation students will observe the sports games from the sidelines, prepared to help Villanueva in case of an injury.

“I really enjoy volunteering because it’s allowed me to develop and understand my passion for sports medicine,” Hsu said. “Mostly, I have to say it’s the people that make it enjoyable. I feel in my Therapeutic Rehabilitation class, it’s like a family. We’re really tightly interconnected.”

By Andrew Kim, Staff writer
Photo by Isaac Le