How athletic trainers are helping student-athletes navigate the pandemic

Ever since the return of sports at Boise State, COVID-19 protocols have been put into place in order for athletic programs to continue with their activities. As Boise State athletes have continued to practice and prepare for their seasons, the responsibility of upholding these protocols falls on a specific group of individuals. 

When Boise State Head Athletic Trainer Marc Paul entered the program in 2008, his job description did not include guiding athletic programs through a pandemic. There have been many changes and adaptations that athletic trainers have had to make in order for Bronco athletics to continue. 

“The constant change is, and continues to be the hardest to adapt to,” Paul said. “Since this is a novel coronavirus and has not been seen before, everything that happens is a first.”

Pre-pandemic, a typical day for an athletic trainer would include assessing individuals in order to avoid injuries or illnesses, assist in athlete recovery and evaluate readiness to play. Their purpose is to provide care and advocate for student-athletes’ health. According to Paul, they always put the student-athlete first in making decisions that will impact their overall health and well being. 

Although these daily duties are still a big portion of their job, athletic trainers also handle anything COVID-19 related. This includes coordinating testing, administering tests, contact tracing and assisting in the return to play process if a student-athlete tests positive.

“Even though the pandemic has impacted us greatly, our job remains the same,” said football and men’s tennis Athletic Trainer Nicholas Do. “We are still going to be an advocate for our student-athletes health and we will continue to do so while abiding by the COVID-19 guidelines and protocols. We may do things differently, but our goal has remained the same.”

[Photo of a Boise State athletic trainer working with a student-athlete]
Photo by Katelyn Kachinski

As cases in Idaho have increased, multiple student-athletes and teams have had to quarantine due to testing positive or contact tracing. In these situations, athletic trainers evaluate and participate in making decisions based on the athlete’s safety.

“The national governing boards such as the CDC, WHO and other medical organizations are constantly updating their guidelines and recommendations, and we have to adapt to those,” Paul said. 

Despite all these changes, student-athletes depend on their athletic trainers for aid and assistance amid this pandemic. Although safety precautions are taken seriously, injuries and illnesses still occur when it comes to sports, according to Paul.

Athletic Trainer Travis Poulson has overseen both football and spirit squad since he joined the program in 2019. Dealing with two athletic programs means that he is not only aiding these athletes with injuries and recovery, but administering them in anything COVID-19 related.

“Remaining positive in a time with so much adversity is very important, and I believe it is an obligation that we hold in this position,” Poulson said. “Positivity is contagious and it is something that can have a big impact on the people we work with. This year has not been easy, living life through a pandemic is challenging for everyone, but we are all in this together.”

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