A Valuable Part of the Team

Late in the second half of a girls’ basketball game between Century High and Bismarck High, a Century player limps off the court after taking a knee to her quadriceps muscle.

Samantha Stroh, a certified/licensed athletic trainer with Sanford Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, immediately takes charge. She escorts the hobbled player to the locker room, conducts an evaluation that reveals no serious injury, helps the player stretch and provides tips on how to manage the injury.

Not even two minutes of time ran off the game clock before the player steps back on the court showing no symptoms of the earlier collision.

“Safety is the most important thing,” said Jim Haussler, activities director for Bismarck Public Schools. “If safety is No. 1, you have to put athletic trainers on a pretty high pedestal.”

For Bismarck Public Schools athletes, those athletic trainers are Stroh and her colleagues. Sanford Orthopedics & Sports Medicine serves as the official sports medicine provider of Bismarck Public Schools as well as Bismarck State College and United Tribes Technical College.

During home events, a Sanford athletic trainer stands ready to prepare athletes for competition and provides care during the game as needed, freeing coaches of an additional responsibility and providing peace of mind to parents and administrators.

“It takes a lot of pressure off coaches,” said Steve Miller, veteran Bismarck High boys’ basketball coach. “We don’t have to do the athletic training. They’re obviously a lot more knowledgeable about that than we are.”

Daily during the school year, those same experts provide care for athletes at the schools.

Stroh’s main assignment is Bismarck High. In the athletic training room, she tapes ankles before practice, offers treatment and evaluations for various injuries and instructs athletes on strengthening exercises and stretches to keep them healthy and prevent further injury.

“She’s always here for you, so you don’t have to go anywhere for treatment,” said Keisha Engelhardt, a junior on the Demons girls’ basketball team.

The familiarity the athletic trainers develop with the athletes helps with that care.

“It’s nice to have a continuous presence of an athletic trainer there at practices and games because you get to know the athletes, and they get to know you. You learn their pain tolerance, their attitudes,” Stroh said. “My relationship with the athletes and coaches is amazing.”

The news Stroh and her fellow athletic trainers must deliver isn’t always pleasant, of course.

They must inform athletes, parents and coaches of potentially serious injuries, such as ligament tears or joint separations, and they refer athletes to specialists or a local emergency and trauma center when the situation calls for it.

When athletes do get injured, it’s up to the athletic trainers to provide clearance before the athletes return. For example, after sustaining a concussion, athletes must clear a five-step progressive physical activity program, which takes a minimum of five days.

“Having the person who works with them daily provide the treatment on the court or in the athletic training room lessens the stress of dealing with an injury,” said Century girls’ basketball coach Ron Metz.

Through the triumphs and the sometimes heartbreaking news, athletic trainers become as big a part of the team as anyone else.

“Athletic trainers are seen as part of the coaching staff,” Haussler said. “They become as emotionally involved as anyone.” Click here for more information on sports medicine services at Sanford Health in Bismarck. Click here for more information on Sanford Orthopedics & Sports Medicine.

Posted Date: November 2013

A Valuable Part of the Team

The experts at Sanford Orthopedics & Sports Medicine keep local athletes in the game