We go to sporting events for the competition but at any moment injuries can bring the game to a standstill. That's when athletic trainers spring into action. You may not know it but March is National Athletic Training Month and a little bit of the spotlight should be shed on the guys and gals who sit at the end of the bench.
They are at every single high school game, no matter the sport an athletic trainer is ready to step in when injuries strike.
"You just never know what you're going to see during the game, the kids are going all out and going for every ball and giving everything they have so injuries can happen at any time. They happen just as much in practices as they do in the game but you just never know and that's what keeps us on our toes everyday doing this job." Said Dustin Gebur, an athletic trainer with Avera CORE Orthopedics.
During last basketball season, Josh Freese learned exactly how quickly injuries can pop up.
"I planted on my left leg and I kind of pivoted back and passed it back inbounds before I was out of bounds and that pivot, I don't know my knee just kind of popped and I was in a lot of pain so I just kind of went down." Said Freese.
That's when Gebur stepped in, getting Josh safely off the court and started treatment.
"The pain just kept going and I realized I couldn't bend my knee like I should and I was thinking this could be pretty serious, I may be out of sports for a while." Said Freese.
His instincts were right, Josh tore his Meniscus in his left knee; an injury that required surgery and plenty of rehab. Meaning 4 to 5 times a week, Josh was in the training room working with Dustin.
"We initially start trying to get their range of motion back and build their strength and from there we do some proprioceptive stuff from balance work and then work them into some sport specific exercises and try to retrain their body so that they are strong and can prevent the injury from happening again." Said Gebur.
By sticking with the rehab, Josh was able to get back for football season but his knee kept him from giving the game his all. He also took the 2013-14 hoop season off in hopes of coming back stronger than before.
"Hopefully by next season after summer lifting, hopefully by then before football season I won't feel that ache in the knee anymore and I won't be restraining from anything, I won't have to not go 100% on every drill like I've been having to do just because of that fear, I just don't want to be afraid to do it again." Said Freese.
Before the injury Josh said he never gave much thought to the guys who sit at the end of the bench. Not only has he gained a stronger appreciation for these caregivers, he's also gained a strong invaluable friendship.
"After it happened and him and I got to hang out every day in his office for couple hours, I started to realize how many people actually going to his office and how much work he actually does. But when you finally become somebody he helps out you realize it's a really big deal, it's a real big thing that he does." Said Freese.
Dustin sees himself as merely a guide on Josh's rehab journey. Simply, doing his part to give him and countless other student athletes the tools and training they need to get back in the game.
"He puts in a lot of work and we get to help with that; but seeing that smile on their face when they get to set foot on that field again that's probably the most rewarding part of the job." Said Gebur.
When he was growing up, Dustin says he had an interest in the medical field but also had a crazy love of sports. Being an athletic trainer was the perfect way for him to get the best of both worlds. For more information just call 877-AT-AVERA.