PHS's support in athletes' injuries and recovery

June, 2024
Katie Qin

Injuries are one of the most common and universal things an athlete can experience, whether a minor scrape or a life-altering incident. At PHS, injuries are prone to happen given the sheer amount of sports teams and clubs, which calls for more than just the expertise of school nurses. PHS does not have a medical team at every game to watch out for all students all the time, but this is covered by trainers and coaches. They are a vital part of an athlete’s recovery process, if not their overall success in the sport, as they are in the best position to support a player at a moment’s notice.

Students Adrian Li ’26 and Erin Pilicer ’26 are two of the many student athletes at PHS who have been injured before. Li, a tennis player and skier, fractured his right wrist while skiing last spring.

“It was a day when there was a lot of powder. I never really skied powder before. So I started skiing, [and] I lost control and fell, and [my right wrist] broke,” Li said.

Thankfully, Li is left-handed, but his broken wrist still significantly hindered his ability to play tennis by forcing him to play solely forehands, a shot he can play with just his left arm. However, with a doctor’s note and support from the coaches of the boys tennis team, Li was able to make the team.

“During tennis tryouts, it was really difficult, but ... the coaches ... were very nice because they’d let me try with the broken wrist ... They’re very supportive of me,” Li said.

To stay fit for tennis, Li attended physical therapy and rehabilitation for around four to five weeks, but most of this was done outside of school.

“A team could have an injury counselor where they address the issue and see how we can make it better, so [athletes can] better play the sport without getting injured ... I didn’t know there was a trainer,” Li said.

Another student, Pilicer, also persevered and played her sport, softball, despite her injury. She broke her pinky finger while attempting to catch a ball during a drill. Although a seemingly small wound, it changed her perception of the game.

“[The injury] made me more conscious of being safer ... even though I played through it. It scared me whenever I was catching or tagging,” Pilicer said.

Although she knew there were medical professionals at PHS, Pilicer attended physical therapy sessions outside of school and had to wear a brace for a few weeks before she could resume playing.

“When [the injury] happened, I didn’t tell anyone. I went to my doctor ... I didn’t really ask for [help],” Pilicer said.

There are a few reasons as to why an injured athlete might not reach out to a school trainer. One such reason stems from the fact that there are only two trainers for the entire student body, and their time and supplies can only be stretched so thinly. For Pilicer, she immediately sought out her doctor because practice was after and outside of school, and it was easier than trying to find trainers stationed elsewhere.

By having a larger team and supply sets at every sport’s playing ground, PHS would be able to respond to accidents much more rapidly and more students would be able to receive immediate care. For athletes whose available time is already limited, access to proper health service immediately after getting injured could help them quickly gain back their strength without falling too far behind.

However, there seems to be a disconnect between athletes and the medical professionals at PHS. April Daly is one of only two athletic trainers, along with Shannon Koch, at PHS. Although not a doctor, she has many qualifications: a Bachelor in Exercise Science, a Master in Athletic Training, a first aid certification, and experience in pharmacy and psychology. Daly also works for a company called JAG Physical Therapy, which specializes in physical rehabilitation, and she brings her knowledge and experience to help PHS athletes. However, many student athletes aren’t aware of the resources and aid that she provides.

“I would say it’s probably fifty-fifty [that injured athletes will come to me], to be honest, because I’ve only been here for a year now, so kids are starting to know me and know my process,” Daly said.

A student’s schedule often does not make room for meetings with a trainer. Throughout the school day, students attend their classes, and Daly only clocks in after break, leaving few windows of opportunity open for students to meet with her. Moreover, once practices or games start after school, both trainers must leave the office to observe and care for players on the field. This is where crosstalk with coaches comes into play.

“We ... have an EMR, an electrical medical system recorder, that sends emails to the coaches everyday of injury reports, and it will have their game statuses, ... so [coaches] know that [the athletes] are actually coming in here and progressing” Daly said.

With fast communication between trainer and coach, an athlete’s status can be closely monitored so they don’t overexert themselves during practice, which allows for a faster recovery. Daly hopes that she can eventually help launch “Project Athlete” at PHS. This program — which was created by JAG Physical Therapy —would help PHS better support athletes who face recurring injuries, and prevent these injuries from happening in the first place. Among other benefits, this program would provide in-person demonstrations of dynamic warmups to decrease the risk of injury and screenings for potential ACL tears. Daly is also creating a website in which students could have access to a general rehab program as well as helpful videos for at-home physical rehabilitation exercises. This website will be accessible to students via QR codes on flyers that she will post around the school.

“I ... think [students are] not really aware of [trainers] and what we [have to] offer, so [we’re] trying to roll [the programs] out slowly and see how that goes,” Daly said.