Athletic trainer’s shadows help treat injured athletes, gaining work experience

October 13, 2017 — by Sandhya Sundaram and Kaylene Morrison

Liz Alves's shadows experience hands-on teaching and learn medical and practical skills.

Junior Eveliina Niva rushed out to the opposing team’s bleachers during a home football game against Silver Creek earlier in the season to help the other team’s cheerleading coach, who had fainted in the 110-degree weather.

Niva, along with three other girls — senior Sadhana Vadrevu, junior Maddie Stuart and junior Hannah Hovey — scrambled to the field to see the dazed and confused coach lying on her back behind the bleachers. The girls lifted her onto a golf cart, and athletic trainer Liz Alves drove her to the training room.

There, they applied ice packs to her groin, underarms and major blood vessels to bring down her core body temperature. This treatment continued until Alves determined that the coach was stable.  

These four girls are Alves’ shadows. They attend all football games and stay after school a few days each week to help out with athlete injuries.

The shadows spent the weeks before school training with Alves. They are now learning various sports medicine skills from administrative tasks such as organizing coolers and repacking kits, to medical tasks like treating and preventing injuries, therapeutic techniques, massaging and stretching.

Alves said that she is “very picky” in terms of choosing her shadows and puts all of them through an interview process before starting.

“It’s an honor to be able to travel with football and you have to be committed to that,” Alves said.

A day spent training with Alves is very different from a typical class. Athletes come in to the training room in the afternoon for stretching, massaging, taping and sometimes even ultrasound. Alves’s skills are often required elsewhere, and her assistants are left to run the room on their own, meaning much of the girls’ training takes place on the fly. During designated training periods, the shadows first practice on each other and on Alves until they are proficient enough to treat athletes.

Stuart first approached Alves when she herself was injured. She then decided that sports medicine was something that she was interested in, partially due to the field’s practicality.

“You can’t do sports forever because when you get older you won’t have the physical capability. [Sports medicine] is something I can use throughout my entire life. It never goes away,” Stuart said.

As an athlete herself, Stuart knows how easy it is to get an injury and then be unable to participate in a sport for weeks or even months. Due to the practicality of the field, she said she would consider a job working with professional sports teams and injured athletes.

Additionally, working with Alves is a different experience every day, which is why it is so enjoyable for the shadows.

“It’s never the same routine every day like a regular class where you’re reading a book or taking notes,” Niva said. “Every day something different happens and you just go with the flow.”

This year will mark Alves’ 10th year at SHS, and it is her seventh year having shadows. This opportunity has allowed her to build relationships with students, many of whom she still talks to now even though they graduated years ago.

“It’s been really great to have a relationship with these kids,” Alves said. “To have them come in as children basically some of them being 13 and then leave as adults.”

Niva said that she loves Alves’ hands-on teaching style. The hands-on aspect of sports medicine is one of the main reasons that Alves decided to go into the field. She said that this career is a great choice for anyone with ADHD because there is always work to do and no time to get distracted.

Vadrevu likes the chaotic nature of sports medicine because it provides an exhilarating adrenaline rush.

“Helping out on the field is stressful and exciting all at once

because you’re excited to go out and help but you don’t want the players to actually be hurt,” Vadrevu said.

Vadrevu is friends with many of the players on the team, which she said both helps and hurts her job. Her friendships with the players give her more of a reason to engage herself in the game, but she is always a little on edge because she doesn’t want to see her friends get hurt.

Vadrevu and the other shadows have learned many practical skills over the months or years that they have worked with Alves. Not only have they learned methods to treat medical ailments, but they have learned practical skills that can be applied to any work environment.  

“What I hope people get out of working with me is practical life skills and actual work experience,” Alves said. “There are a lot of subsets in the medical field and each is different. It’s important to explore as many actual work settings as you can so you can find what really makes you happy.”

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