By Devin Ferrell
It was a usual game in the 2013 NCAA Championship series. The University of Louisville Cardinals were up a point against the North Carolina Blue Devils with six minutes left in the first half. Sneakers squeaked on the floor, the bounce of the ball could be heard throughout the court, and the shouting of the coaches was drowned out by the cacophony of spectators in the stands. The game took a bizarre turn, however, when guard Kevin Ware broke his right leg after landing from blocking an attempted three point shot by the Blue Devils. Players and fans were stunned at the unprecedented injury and some players, coaches and spectators were moved to tears.
“Each sport is somewhat unique in what commonly occurs,” said Dr. Kirk Lewis, Orthopedic Surgeon at Idaho Sports Medicinal Institute. “Each sport has its injury that we see more commonly, of the joints that are injured obviously the knee is the one that usually gets injured the most generally followed by the shoulder as far as serious injury.”
Injuries like Ware’s, while graphic and painful, are not the norm in college athletics. In an NCAA published report on football injuries between the 2004 and 2009 seasons, 41,000 injuries were reported with the most common being ligament sprains amounting to 30 percent of total injuries followed by knee injuries. Concussions, in what has become a growing concern for athlete safety in recent years in contact sports like football, comprised 7.4 percent.
“Ankle sprains overall are the most common thing you see nationally or internationally.” said Lewis.
On the frontline of treatment for the Broncos are the athletic trainers. “If one of our athletes has something that comes up we are the ones that have to make the initial assessment,” said Marc Paul, Assistant Athletic Director and Head of Athletic Training. “We have to determine what’s going on…if they even need to go see a doctor or if they have to be referred out to another physician or if we need to call in an ambulance, all of those decisions are made by us.” There are seven full time athletic trainers on staff, five graduate assistants and 30 undergraduate students through the approved undergraduate training program.
“I feel very strongly that the initial contact of the athlete should be through the athletic trainer, they’re the ones who are with the athlete day in day out in the locker room, they know the athletes a lot more intimately than we do, we are here to back them up.” Lewis said.
“We see the athlete every day. We see them in practice, at games, we travel with them. We see them before practice and events, we see them during and afterwards.” Paul said.
ISMI receives both acute and chronic injuries from BSU as well as the community. Physicians diagnose patients using x-ray and ultrasound as well as examinations. Physical therapists work with patients on rehabilitation and therapy to help athletes recuperate and get back to playing. According to Lewis, surgery should be an absolute “last option” due to the time it takes for an athlete to recover and return to their sport. For athletic trainers, treatment is followed through from the initial contact to treatment at ISMI to outside referrals to other facilities.
To prevent injuries from occurring it comes down to conditioning and practice.
“In the off season conditioning is a big factor.” said sophomore and Bronco basketball player Derrick Marks. “We have our strength and conditioning coach and probably like four or five days out of the week we get in some sprints and make sure our bodies are in the right shape for the season.” In regards to IMSI and the athletic trainers Marks said “They do a good job over there, they make sure everyone is healthy and working the correct way.”